REFILE-CME live cattle trade eases with beef demand, hogs rally
(Refiles to add dropped letter in headline; no change to text)
Dec 18 (Reuters) - Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle dipped in choppy trading on Wednesday on softening wholesale beef demand that may undermine cash prices this week, traders said.
* The Tuesday afternoon wholesale choice beef price fell $1.54 from Monday to $198.43 per cwt, although select cuts gained 37 cents to $188.78, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
* Beef demand typically slows down this time of year as consumers focus on holiday gift giving, a trader said.
* Recent bouts of wintry weather on the densely populated East Coast likely hurt meat sales in the region, he said.
LIVE CATTLE - At 8:20 a.m. CST (1420 GMT), December was at 131.575 cents per lb, down 0.175 cent. February was at 132.950 cents, down 0.025 cent.
* Investors look for cash cattle to trade steady to $1 per cwt lower than last week.
* Last week, cash cattle in Texas and Kansas moved at $131 per cwt, and sales of $130 to $131 were reported in Nebraska, feedlot sources said.
* Fewer cattle are available this week, which is a supportive cash factor.
* However, packing plants will be closed at least one day each week during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, limiting their need for supplies.
* Reduced slaughters over the next two weeks should result in less beef, which should help drive up wholesale beef prices, an analyst said.
* FEEDER CATTLE - January was at 166.700 cents per lb, down 0.450 cent. March was at 165.775 cents per lb, 0.600 cent lower.
* CME live cattle weakness pressured feeder cattle futures.
LEAN HOGS - February was at 86.400 cents per lb, 0.750 cent higher, while April was at 91.050 cents, up 0.625 cent.
* Higher-than-expected cash hog prices stirred short-covering that helped rally CME hogs from Tuesday's losses, traders said.
* USDA data on Tuesday afternoon quoted the average price of hogs in the closely watched Iowa/Minnesota market at $78.23 per cwt, $1.65 higher than Monday.
* Packers likely needed a few hogs to fill out this week's production, a trader said. But the broader cash price trend will be lower given the shutdown of plants for the holidays, he said.
* Speculators bought deferred contracts with the view that the spread of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which is fatal to baby pigs, will shrink supplies of slaughter-ready hogs in the spring and summer of 2014.
* USDA data on Wednesday showed hog weights in Iowa/Minnesota for the week ended last Saturday averaged 281.3 lbs. That was down 1.1 lbs from the previous week but 7.7 lbs higher than a year earlier.
The average weight reported on Wednesday in the region broke a six-week consecutive string of record-high weights. (Reporting by Theopolis Waters in Chicago; editing by Jim Marshall)
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