Cattle hit new highs on technical buying, beef gains

CHICAGO, March 17 (Reuters) – U.S. live cattle futures climbed to a fresh seven-week high on Friday while feeder cattle reached the highest levels since August on support from technical buying and gains in wholesale beef prices,
traders said.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange futures tracked gains earlier this week in Plains cash cattle markets, with meat packers paying elevated prices amid big profit margins and the highest beef values since last summer.

Most-active CME April live cattle finished 0.125 cent higher at 119.325 cents per lb. Cattle reached their session and multiweek high of 119.750 cents in late-morning trading, before paring gains into the close. April cattle on a weekly chart has not lost ground in five weeks.

CME April feeder cattle futures were up 1.075 cents to 131.625 cents per lb, capping a weekly gain on nearly 4 percent.

“Cattle futures like the strength in the cash market and the wholesale beef,” said Archer Financials broker Dennis Smith.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said choice-grade wholesale beef was up $1.07 to $223.43 per cwt.

Average beef packer profit margins eased slightly but remained lofty. HedgersEdge LLC estimated packer profits at $117.05 per head of cattle, down from $130.45 on Thursday but up from $91 a week ago.

CME lean hog futures eased for the third straight session as investors locked in profits following Tuesday’s multiweek high. April hog futures settled down 0.850 cent at 69.050 cents per pound. The contract still gained about 1.3 percent for the week, largely due to steep gains on Monday.

“They came down through some moving averages,” Smith said, adding that he remained bullish on hogs due to good demand for pork. “It’s a strong market that has huge demand.

Wholesale pork was up 26 cents to $81.60 per cwt while cash hog prices in the top market of Iowa and southern Minnesota averaged $66.10 per cwt, down $1.38.

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