April cattle closed sharply lower on the session yesterday as a well-received weekly export sales report failed to provide support to prices. In addition, a weaker tone for the beef market at midday was thought to have put additional pressure on the market. Many traders are still reluctant to believe that beef prices can stay at higher levels for an extended period of time without significant resistance from the consumer. Weekly U.S. beef export sales for the week ending February 2nd came in at 22,330 metric tonnes, compared with the prior 4-week average of 14,630 tonnes. Cumulative sales for 2012 have reached 168,630 metric tonnes, up 1.7% from last year's pace. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 125,000 head yesterday, which was higher than expected and may be an indication of firmer demand from packers. This brings the total for the week so far to 496,000 head, up from 482,000 head last week at this time but down from 499,000 head a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were down 38 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 24 cents lower at $186.32. This was up from $183.19 the prior week. Average dressed steer weights for the week ending January 28th came in at 855 pounds, up from 854 pounds the previous week and up 0.6% from a year ago. Beef production for the same week came in at 471.1 million pounds, down 5.55% over year ago. Cash cattle are bid at $121.00 this week with offers at $126.00 after trading $123 late last week.
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