April cattle closed sharply higher on the session yesterday and managed to close above Wednesday's high, as concern over beef demand was offset by positive outside market forces. Ideas that slaughter levels have been running a little bit higher than expected over the past few days, along with a surge in US equity markets and a weaker US Dollar were thought to have supported the market. However, many traders feel the market with continue to struggle with the idea of high gasoline prices and record high beef prices at the same time. Boxed beef cutout values were down 96 cents at mid-session yesterday and closed $1.73 lower at $195.80. This was down from $198.45 the prior week and is the lowest beef market since February 21st. Weekly U.S. beef export sales for the week ending March 1st came in at 10,700 metric tonnes, compared with the prior 4-week average of 18,333 tonnes. Cumulative sales for 2012 have reached 219,000 metric tonnes, up 2.6% from last year's pace. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 125,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 502,000 head, up from 490,000 head last week at this time but unchanged from a year ago.

Average dressed steer weights for the week ending February 25th came in at 854 pounds, unchanged from the previous week but up 2.4% from a year ago. The 5-year average weekly weight for that week is 831.8 pounds. Beef production for the same week came in at 463.6 million pounds, down 7.9% over year ago.