February cattle closed 122 higher on the session Friday and up 215 points for the week, rising to the highest prices levels since January 3rd. New all-time highs for nearby feeder cattle futures helped to support solid gains in cattle futures, although uncertainty over cash cattle trading in the southern plains kept prices choppy and volatile. Cash cattle in the southern plains traded at $123.00 to $124.50 on Friday, which was up $2.00 to $3.00 from the previous week. Recent weakness in beef prices, poor packer margins and talk of hefty market-ready feedlot supply may have helped to limit the strength of the carrel market during Friday's session. Ideas that the sharp break in beef prices might encourage better consumer demand helped to support cattle futures. The turn up in the global stock markets and strong action for other commodity markets plus weakness in the US dollar overnight are all seen as positive forces for the cattle market at the start of this week's trading. Boxed beef cutout values were down $2.53 at mid-session Friday and closed $2.63 lower at $184.12. This was down from $190.10 the prior week and is the lowest beef market since October 21st of last year. Beef production for the week was estimated at 506.2 million pounds, up 2.9% from last year. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 125,000 head Friday and 13,000 head for Saturday. This brought the total for last week to 653,000 head, up from 560,000 head the previous week and up from 631,000 head a year ago.
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