LIVESTOCK-U.S. live cattle futures firm with beef prices
* Cash price optimism stirs short-covering * Feeders cattle slip on lower cash prices * Feb hogs up, others slide amid spreads By Theopolis Waters CHICAGO, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures rose on Tuesday, helped by short-covering following higher wholesale beef prices, analysts and traders said. Optimism for cash cattle prices generated additional live cattle futures buying interest, they said. CME live cattle spot February settled 0.525 cent per lb higher at 127.600 cents. The most-active April ended up 0.025 cent to 132.300 cents. USDA showed the price for wholesale choice beef Tuesday morning at $184 per cwt, up $1.26 from Monday; select cuts jumped $1.16 to $180.17. Packers will continue to cutback slaughters which should help improve their margins and boost wholesale beef prices, a trader said. From Monday to Tuesday, packers slaughtered 236,000 head of cattle, 13,000 less than a week earlier and a year ago during the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. HedgersEdge.com put the average beef packer margin for Tuesday at a negative $69.70 per head, compared with a negative $86.95 on Monday and a negative $23.05 on Jan. 29. "We will likely see at least steady, and possibly higher cash cattle prices, as it appears we're putting in a short-term bottom on the beef side," said Oak Investment Group president Joe Ocrant. Feedlot sources reported no cash cattle bids or asking prices. Cash cattle last week moved at mostly $122 to $124 per cwt, they said. CME feeder cattle slipped on lower prices for younger cattle at the most-watched Oklahoma City market. Traders cited deferred-month live cattle market weakness and technical selling. March finished down 0.350 cent per lb to 148.525 cents. April closed 0.375 cent lower to 152.025 cents. MOST HOGS DROP ON SPREADS Hog futures ended mostly lower as bullish spreads supported spot February but pressured deferred contracts, traders and analysts said. Spot February hogs settled up 0.250 cent per lb at 88.325 cents. February tracked CME's lean hog index at 88.88 cents before the spot month expires on Feb. 14. Most-active April ended at 87.700 cents, 0.650 cent lower and June closed 0.650 cent lower at 96.450 cents. Some people are concerned about pork values moving forward as we start to come into more hog numbers and as packers work to realign their margins, said R.J. O'Brien hog futures trader Tom Cawthorne. The average hog price at the most-watched Iowa/Minnesota market on Tuesday morning was $85.44 per cwt, $2.13 lower than on Monday, USDA said. The average pork packer margin for Tuesday was a negative $5.50 per head, compared with a negative $8.15 on Monday and a negative $4.80 on Jan. 29, according to HedgersEdge.com.
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