* Position squaring before holiday as cash prices weigh
* Live cattle climb Friday, up marginally for the week
* Feeders gain with live cattle, down 2nd week in a row
By Theopolis Waters
CHICAGO, Feb 15 Chicago Mercantile Exchange hog
futures settled mixed on Friday as investors squared positions
ahead of the three-day U.S. Presidents' Day holiday weekend.
But lower cash hog values handed CME hogs their
biggest weekly percent drop in 4 months at 2.5 percent.
April hogs ended at 84.250 cents per lb, down 0.075
cent, after earlier drifting to a 7 1/2-month low. June
bounced off a seven-month low before closing up 0.250 cent at
Packers cut cash hog bids and curtailed slaughter due to
unprofitable margins and tepid wholesale pork demand, said
traders and analysts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture showed the average price
for hogs in the most-watched Iowa/Minnesota market Friday at
$81.44 per cwt, down 95 cents from Thursday and down $3.26 from
a week ago.
HedgersEdge.com put the average pork packer margin for
Friday at a negative $12.30 head, compared with a negative
$15.35 on Feb. 8.
USDA estimated this week's hog slaughter at 2.145 million
head, 6,000 less than during the year earlier period.
Some hog processing plants will be closed on Monday for the
Presidents' Day holiday, which could reduce that day's slaughter
by about 50,000 head, industry sources said.
LIVE CATTLE RISE BEFORE HOLIDAY
Live cattle futures settled higher lifted by pre-holiday
short-covering following huge losses early in the week, said
traders and analysts.
CME live cattle posted a marginal percentage increase
for the week.
Futures tumbled Tuesday and Wednesday due to fund
liquidation and pressure from lower cash cattle prices.
Cash cattle traded at $123 per cwt, down $2 from a week ago,
said feedlot sources.
Packers avoided spending more for supplies by trimming
slaughter rates, which could help improve their margins and firm
sagging wholesale beef values.
"Everybody was off and running with the idea of tighter
cattle supplies, but you still have to have somebody willing to
buy beef on the other side of that equation," said Sterling
Marketing president John Nalivka.
USDA put the wholesale price for choice beef on Friday at
$181.95 per cwt, down $1.58 from Thursday and down from the high
so far this month of $184.31, according to USDA.
The government estimated this week's cattle slaughter at
596,000 head of cattle, 14,000 fewer than a year ago.
A few packers will be idle on Monday's holiday. Based on
USDA data, an estimated 104,000 cattle were processed during
last year's holiday.
HedgersEdge.com put the average beef packer margin for
Friday at a negative $66.90 per head, compared with a negative
$61.45 on Feb. 8.
Feeder cattle futures ended higher helped by short-covering
and by live cattle market advances.
CME feeder cattle ended 1.12 percent lower for the
week and fell for a second consecutive week.
March feeders closed 0.700 cent per lb higher at
143.375 cents. April closed at 146.625 cents, up 0.400