April cattle closed 75 higher on the session yesterday and managed to post a contract high for the second day in a row. The market saw solid gains early as a positive tone for outside market forces as well as ideas that the rally in beef prices this week combined with a smaller showlist could boost cash cattle trade were seen as supportive factors for the market. Demand factors appear to be improving this week and many in the market await confirmation of better packer demand from cash cattle trading this week. US economic news was viewed to be positive yesterday as many traders saw the jobless claims numbers as supportive to beef demand. Weekly export sales were down from last week but were considered to be at normal levels. March Feeder cattle have posted a new contract high as well as an all-time high for the nearby Feeder cattle futures during each of the past three sessions. Many traders are concerned that sluggish demand from packers during recent weeks could cause some cattle to back-up in feedlots and this, along with the recent mild weather, could boost weights and overall production. Cattle in the southern plains are offered at $127.00-$128.00 this week with packer bids all the way down at $122.00. Last week's cash market trades occurred at the $123.00-$124.00 level. Beef export sales for the week ending February 9th came in at 15,840 metric tonnes, compared with the prior 4-week average of 17,600 metric tonnes. Cumulative sales for 2012 have reached 199,800 metric tonnes, up 0.4% from last year's pace. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 122,000 head yesterday which was slightly below trade expectations. This brings the total for the week so far to 485,000 head, down from 496,000 head last week at this time and down from 516,000 head a year ago. Average dressed steer weights for the week ending February 4th came in at 860 pounds, up from 855 pounds the previous week and up 1.65% from a year ago. Beef production for the same week came in at 465.1 million pounds, down 8.37% over year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were up 87 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 82 cents higher at $190.20. This was up from $186.32 the prior week and is the highest beef market since January 5th.
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