February cattle close moderately lower on the day, as a weaker tone for the economy and weakness in the stock market were generally seen as pressuring the market. In addition, the stiff premium of futures to the cash market may see a correction if cash trades slightly higher and futures lower. Beef prices pushed towards their highest levels since July this week, which has also been seen as providing underlying support for the market and fostered ideas that cash cattle will trade higher this week. Boxed beef cutout values were down 43 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 90 cents lower at $171.91. This was up from $168.59 the prior week. Most traders remain doubtful that China will buy US beef or pork during the near future, even with a trade delegation in the US this week. For the Cattle-on-Feed report on Friday, many traders see December placements coming in at 10% to 15% above last year which could push on-feed supply as of January 1st close to 4% above last year. Marketings are expected to be up nearly 5% from last year. If that occurs, placements will be above last year's levels for the fifth month in a row. Some traders believe that feeder supply will eventually tighten to the point where placements will be forced to decline. Cow slaughter has been very high in the past year as producers are thought to have taken advantage of high cash values. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 125,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 375,000 head, up from 361,000 head last week at this time but down from 384,000 head a year ago.
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