February cattle remained under pressure during Tuesday's trading as prices fell to their lowest levels since September 23rd. The current discount of futures prices to the cash market has been widely seen as a key negative factor. While cash cattle traded at $124.00-$126.00 on Friday, February cattle have declined to the $119.50 area. Fears of declining beef demand in the near future continue to drive the market lower as short-term cash fundamentals are considered negative and consumer sentiment has been weak. Many traders also see slumping beef exports this month and a slowdown in corporate holiday and and-of-the-year parties as a demand issue. The supply outlook for cattle remains supportive as a shift in beef production from the fourth quarter to the first quarter as well as forecasts for beef production to fall about 4%-5% during 2012 are factors which may support cattle futures. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 130,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 261,000 head, up from 256,000 head last week at this time but unchanged from a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were up 70 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 2 cents higher at $190.20. This was down from $194.95 the prior week.
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