April cattle closed 180 higher on the session yesterday to a six-session high close, as many traders see this sluggish period of beef demand ending soon as well as better consumer demand during the near future. The cattle market traded at the lowest price levels since early January early in the session, before seeing a strong rally take the market above the highs of the past two sessions. News of deliveries and expectations for warmer weather in the plains into the weekend were seem as pressuring the market early, but a positive turnaround in the hog market along with fears that the bitter cold and snow of the past several days will hurt feedlot performance helped to support the market. Another 43 deliveries this morning after 20 deliveries yesterday may be seen as a negative development, and lower beef prices were thought to be an additional negative factor as beef has fallen back to the lowest levels since January 12th. The weather has been stressful to cattle performance as supplies have been tightening, which are factors which support ideas of higher cash cattle trade in the near future. Weekly U.S. beef export sales for the week ending February 3rd came in at 9,900 metric tonnes, the lowest level since the first week of the year and compared with the prior 4-week average of 14,800. Cumulative sales for 2011 have reached 150,800 metric tonnes, up 28.7% from last year's pace. In the monthly supply/demand report yesterday, the USDA raised their estimate for beef production for 2011 by 255 million pounds. This was partially offset by an adjustment lower in imports of 60 million and an adjustment higher of 45 million in exports. Beef production for the year is expected to be 1.5% below last year. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 125,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 497,000 head, up from 481,000 head last week at this time and up from 482,000 head a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were down 75 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 77 cents lower at $169.00. This was down from $172.09 the prior week, and is the lowest beef market since January 12th. Average dressed steer weights for the week ending January 29th came in at 846 pounds, down from 850 pounds the previous week and 836 pounds last year. For the same week, slaughter was up 3.6% but beef production came in at 507.6 million pounds, up 4.55% over year ago.
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