June cattle closed 107 points lower on the session Friday, which left the market up 25 points for the week. A rally in the US Dollar combined with weakness in the stock market was widely seen as a negative demand factor. Additional weakness in the beef market late Thursday and ideas that the cattle market may have risen too far, too fast were also seen to have pressured cattle futures. Sharp losses in the hog market added to the negative tone for cattle late last week, with June hogs trading near limit-down levels by the close. A tightening supply outlook for both pork and beef into the spring and improving demand weather are factors which may help to support cattle prices this week. A steep drop in steer weights suggest to some traders that the industry is getting more current with marketings but weights are still well above last year's levels at this time. The estimated cattle slaughter came in at 119,000 head Friday and 3,000 head for Saturday. This brought the total for last week to 582,000 head, down from 622,000 head the previous week and down from 645,000 head a year ago. Boxed beef cutout values were up $1.46 at mid-session Friday and closed $1.81 higher at $178.51. This was up from $177.61 the prior week and is the highest beef market since April 9th. With choice beef currently at a discount to select beef, some traders feel that retailers may not be attempting to move higher-priced beef cuts in this economy. As lower quality fine lean beef is pulled out of the pipeline, select beef prices have risen up to be roughly even with choice prices. Average dressed steer weights for the week ending March 31st came in at 836 pounds, down from 844 pounds the previous week and 850 pounds two weeks previous. This is still up from 827 pounds last year, but many traders feel that the steep two-week set-back is impressive and could suggest that packers are moving toward a more current situation with their marketings.
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