CME live cattle firm on cash price expectations
Dec 27 (Reuters) - Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures moved up slightly on Friday in anticipation of steady to possibly higher cash prices this week, traders said.
* The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly export report on Thursday showed U.S. beef sales at a negative 7,200 tonnes - mostly reflecting cancellations by Hong Kong - compared with a positive 4,800 tonnes in the previous week.
* "It's hard to rationalize or put any credence in beef exports this time of year because of the Christmas and New Year's holiday adjustments," a trader said.
LIVE CATTLE - At 8:47 a.m. CST (1447 GMT), December futures were at 132.825 cents per lb, up 0.125 cent. February was at 134.300 cents, 0.150 cent higher.
* Cash cattle bids in the U.S. Plains stood at $129 per cwt against spotty $132 asking prices from sellers, feedlot sources said. Last week, cash cattle moved at mostly $130, they said.
* Expectations for cash prices have improved on expectations of tight cattle supplies ahead and unexpected packer buyer interest on Thursday, an analyst said.
* Still, soft wholesale beef demand and poor packer margins could challenge cash returns.
* Packers will not need as many cattle with plants closed at least one day for the New Year's holiday.
* FEEDER CATTLE - January was at 166.900 cents per lb, up 0.300 cent. March was at 166.425 cents per lb, up 0.225 cent.
* Firm CME live cattle lifted feeder cattle futures.
* Benchmark Oklahoma City market feeder cattle prices will be unavailable Dec. 30 and 31 because of next week's holiday.
LEAN HOGS - February was at 85.600 cents per lb, 0.300 cent higher, while April was at 90.750 cents, up 0.100 cent.
* CME hogs turned moderately higher following stronger-than-anticipated cash prices and wholesale pork values late Thursday , traders said.
* Hog prices in the Midwest on Friday traded steady to up 50 cents per cwt, according to dealers.
* Packers are buying hogs for Saturday's slaughter and to fill in production for next week, an analyst said. Resurgent prices for pork bellies, which are made into bacon, drove up wholesale pork values, he said.
* Investors adjusted positions before Friday's USDA quarterly hogs report.
* Analysts expect that report to show the U.S. hog herd declined due in part to a swine virus that is fatal to baby pigs. Such a decline should shrink pork production in the first half of 2014.
* The government's weekly export report showed U.S. pork sales at 5,600 tonnes, mostly to Mexico, compared with 9,700 tonnes in the previous week.
(Reporting by Theopolis Waters in Chicago; editing by Jim Marshall)