April cattle closed sharply higher on the session yesterday and managed to post solid gains even with weakness in metal and equity markets and a sharp rally in the US dollar. News that some cash cattle traded in Texas at $128.00 early this week had some traders believing that cash cattle will trade higher late this week. Packer margins are still in the red but have improved this week as recent US economic news may prove to be a positive factor for beef demand. At the moment, packers may not be too aggressive about paying up in the cash market and the movement through the pipeline seems to be slowing. If slaughter level continues to be below expectations, it may be difficult to sustain April cattle's current premium to the cash market. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 119,000 head yesterday, which was below trade expectations. This brings the total for the week so far to 365,000 head, up from 348,000 head last week at this time but down from 384,000 head a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were up 29 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed 15 cents higher at $198.80. This was up from $196.88 the prior week and is the highest beef market since October 2003 and near record highs.