The hog market saw choppy trade early in Thursday's session but a steady flow of supportive factors pushed futures higher into the mid-day. Hog futures closed sharply higher for the session near the highs of the day, with October and April hogs moving up to new contract highs. Talk of a strong export trend for pork and ideas that both cattle and poultry numbers will be declining into 2012 also may have strengthened the market. Cash hogs traded $0.50 to $2.00 higher on the day, which was widely seen as supporting the market as well. While the pork cut-out in the past week has been steady to lower, cash markets continue to push higher this week, and there are many in the market who appear impressed with the ability of the cash market to rise during a period of large supplies. Ideas that the market could absorb seasonally high 4th quarter production with a more active export market, especially to China, were considered a positive factor for the market. While the US dollar has been stronger against most other currencies, Japanese buyers are not thought to have been hurt by recent dollar strength so exports have been strong. The USDA attache in China sees China pork imports in 2012 up 8% to 480,000 tonnes. This comes in the face of higher production as China pork production next year is expected to rise to 51.3 million tonnes, up 4% from this year and total meat production is estimated at 81.4 million tonnes, up 3%. The CME Lean Hog Index as of October 4th came in at 91.99, up 48 cents from the previous session and up from 91.45 the week before. The estimated hog slaughter came in at 430,000 head yesterday. This brings the total for the week so far to 1.712 million head, up from 1.703 million head last week at this time and up from 1.678 million head a year ago. Pork cutout values released after the close yesterday came in at $97.91, down 22 cents from Wednesday and down from $98.08 the previous week.