June 6, 2020 / 12:21 AM / a month ago

LIVESTOCK-Live cattle futures fall as slaughter recovers, beef prices sag

CHICAGO, June 5 (Reuters) - U.S. live cattle futures fell on Friday, pressured by softening prices for market-ready cattle and declining packer profit margins as wholesale beef prices continue to slide, analysts said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) June live cattle futures settled down 1.825 cents at 93.900 cents per pound and benchmark August fell 1.750 cents at 96.175 cents after hitting 95.7, a one-month low.

CME August feeder cattle futures closed down 0.550 cent at 134.175 cents per pound.

Market-ready cattle traded in the cash market on Friday as low as $100 per hundredweight in Texas, below Thursday’s trades at $105 and down from $118 per cwt on Monday.

“We are seeing the cash trade weaken throughout this week,” said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions.

The daily U.S. cattle and hog slaughter has mostly recovered since April and early May, when the coronavirus pandemic sickened enough slaughterhouse workers to force numerous meat-packing plants to close temporarily. The cattle slaughter reached a two-month high on Thursday at 117,000 head, replenishing beef supplies.

As a result, wholesale beef prices have retreated sharply from historic highs, narrowing packer margins. The choice boxed beef cutout, an indicator of wholesale prices, fell on Friday afternoon to $261.48 per cwt, down $10.78 from Thursday and down nearly $102 from a week ago, according to the USDA.

“Cutout values continue to decline ... with the big jumps in the slaughter numbers. And the steer weights are much heavier than a year ago,” Hoops said.

CME lean hog futures closed mostly higher on technical buying and a bounce on Wall Street after data showed an unexpected jump in U.S. employment.

“Lean hog futures are higher as the economy opens up and demand returns,” said Arlan Suderman, economist with INTL FCStone.

However, the spot June hog futures contract fell, pressured by a backlog of hogs still awaiting slaughter.

CME June lean hogs ended down 0.975 cent at 47.450 cents per pound while most-active July futures settled up 0.350 cent at 53.925 cents.

Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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