April cattle closed 15 points lower on the session Friday, which left the market down 5 points for the week although prices traded in a range of 417 points during that timeframe. The market rallied early Friday to as high as 115.00 for the April contract, but a sharp sell-off in the US stock market and growing concerns that higher energy prices could clip consumer demand for beef were seen by many traders as sparking long liquidation selling by mid-session. While there are some traders who suspect that beef demand will begin to decline as retail gasoline prices rise, that trend has not been seen in the cash market so far. In fact, beef prices rose to their highest price levels since July of 2008, while cash cattle traded at a new weekly average high. Another week of higher than expected slaughter might be widely seen as a negative factor, but many traders see this as a positive for packer demand as well as a reason to project that feedlots may be more current with their marketings. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 112,000 head Friday and 20,000 head for Saturday. This brought the total for last week to 643,000 head, down from 652,000 head the previous week but up 3.5% from last year. Boxed beef cutout values were up 59 cents at mid-session Friday and closed 91 cents higher at $173.79. This was up from $170.06 the prior week and the highest beef level since July of 2008.
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