February hogs closed moderately higher on the session yesterday, but still down more than 100 points from the early highs. The market pushed sharply higher on the session early in the day and to new contract highs as the surge higher in the pork product prices was thought to have encouraged aggressive new buying and short-covering. April hogs also posted new contract highs. Cash hogs were mostly steady. Signs of stronger than expected exports, plus a shift towards lower production levels during the near future have been widely seen as positive forces. Pork cut-out values rose sharply higher on Friday afternoon to $85.14 from $81.18 earlier in the week, and were down slightly on Monday to $84.93. Pork values are at their highest level since October, and this has many traders expecting higher cash markets ahead. Ongoing ideas of tightening supply plus the rally in pork products helped to support ideas that the cash market trend will stay higher into February. The CME Lean Hog Index as of January 13 came in at 74.00, up 44 cents from the previous session and up from 73.07 the week before. This leaves February hogs at a higher than normal premium of 650 points for this time of the year. Pork cutout values released after the close yesterday came in at $85.06, up 13 cents from Monday and up from $81.18 the previous week. The estimated hog slaughter came in at 424,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 784,000 head, up from 767,000 head last week at this time but down from 802,000 head a year ago. Monthly pork exports for November were the highest since the spring of 2008, and exports now represent 19.8% of total production. The USDA believes 2011 exports will be up 9.1% from last year. South Korea has culled near 2 million pigs and has reduced the pig and cattle population by about 15% so far in an attempt to stop foot and mouth disease from spreading.