April cattle traded moderately higher for the session yesterday, and lifted up towards the highest levels since February 2nd early in the day. Ideas that beef prices have turned higher after choppy to lower trade for much of February was seen as a supportive factor for the market. Smaller showlists this week and a firming tone to the beef market helped to encourage ideas that cash cattle can trade higher this week. In addition, a sharp break in corn prices helped to lift up feeder cattle. June cattle matched the February 2nd contract high overnight and March feeder cattle pushed to yet another new high overnight after closing sharply higher for 5 days in a row. This was seen as helping feeder cattle rally to an all-time high of 131.10. The market faces a USDA Cattle-On-Feed report on Friday which is expected by the market to show large supplies as of February 1st, but the overall cattle herd is declining. Ideas that ranchers may soon begin to rebuild their herds is seen as another positive factor for prices as this is expected to create an even tighter supply of feeder cattle available to move onto feedlots. Traders see On-Feed supply on February 1st near 5% above last year for the USDA report on Friday with January placements thought to be up near 3%-5% and January marketings about unchanged from last year. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 129,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 384,000 head, up from 372,000 head last week at this time and up from 358,000 head a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were up 28 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 32 cents higher at $168.45. This was down from $169.77 the prior week but is the highest beef price since February 10th.
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