December cattle closed unchanged on the session Friday but finished 545 points higher for the week. The market traded lower early in the session due to weak packer profit margins, a premium to the cash market and bearish outside market forces. December futures then recovered to the highest prices levels since July 13th and nearby futures moved to a new all-time high of 125.37 before the late setback after a 777 point surge from Tuesday's low to Friday's peak. While longer-term fundamentals for the market look very positive from a supply perspective, many traders remain concerned about demand with prices at historically lofty levels at the same time that consumer sentiment is at a 2-1/2 year low. Economic concerns persisted over the weekend, with equity markets down sharply in the overnight session although recovering from their lows early this morning. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 122,000 head Friday and 21,000 head for Saturday. This brought the total for last week to 648,000 head, down from 671,000 head the previous week and down from 652,000 head a year ago. Beef production for the week totaled 504.6 million pounds, which was down 3.2% from the previous week and down 0.7% from last year. Boxed beef cutout values were up 4 cents at mid-session Friday and closed 8 cents lower at $187.13. This was down from $188.10 the prior week. Cumulative weekly export sales for 2011 have reached 765,700 metric tonnes, up 30.3% from last year's pace.
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