March 13, 2020 / 5:50 PM / 21 days ago

LIVESTOCK-U.S. lean hog, cattle futures dive on coronavirus fears

CHICAGO, March 13 (Reuters) - U.S. lean hog futures fell their expanded daily limit on Friday on fears that the coronavirus pandemic could curb consumer demand for meat and threaten the workforce at slaughterhouses, traders said.

“The germophobia is in full force,” said Don Roose, president of Iowa-based U.S. Commodities.

Traders are considering that more widespread testing for coronavirus might uncover infections among workers at meat packing plants, Roose said. Slaughterhouses are already grappling with a tight labor supply.

“Maybe one of those people has a problem, and maybe that helps cause a shutdown of a packing plant,” Roose said, potentially backing up hog supplies.

As of 12:31 p.m. CDT (1731 GMT), the Chicago Mercantile Exchange April lean hogs contract was down its expanded limit of 4.5 cents at 56.375 cents per pound, a contract low. Limits were widened for Friday’s trade after futures settled down the regular 3-cent limit on Thursday.

The coronavirus has affected a host of major sporting events, raising fears the demand for pork and beef could slow. The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons were both suspended, Major League Baseball delayed its season start and U.S. college basketball’s “March Madness” tournament was canceled.

“You can’t quantify what the demand is, with all these big events shutting down,” Roose said.

CME live cattle and feeder cattle futures were also sharply lower, with the benchmark contracts in each market tumbling the expanded daily maximum at times.

The CME April live cattle contract was down 4.5 cents, the expanded limit, at 95.575 cents per pound, while the June was down 4.425 cents at 89.825 cents.

The April feeder cattle contract was down 6.750 cents, its expanded daily limit, at 112.275 cents per pound.

Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Dan Grebler

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