LIVESTOCK-Cattle, hog futures rebound with grocery demand in focus

CHICAGO, March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. livestock futures rose on Thursday, part of a broad recovery in the agriculture markets stemming from a rebound in crude oil prices and export hopes, traders said.

Strong demand for meat in the retail sector underpinned the gains as the industry scrambled to restock grocery stores as the coronavirus pandemic sparked heavy buying from consumers stuck at home.

“There has been such a run on it at the supermarkets,” said Doug Houghton, analyst with Brock Associates. “The pipeline is depleted on the retail end.”

Traders also noted signs of strong export demand.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Thursday morning said that weekly export sales of pork totaled 35,700 tonnes in the latest week. That included 15,700 tonnes for China, the world’s top consumer of pork.

CME May feeder cattle futures contract rose the daily trading limit of 4.5 cents to close at 113.025 cents per lb. Feeder cattle contracts closed limit up across the board and will trade with expanded limits of 6.75 cents on Friday.

CME June live cattle futures were 3 cents higher at 88.925 cents per lb.

CME April lean hog futures were also up 3 cents at 61.15 cents per lb.

Demand for U.S. meat at grocery stores will likely exceed supplies for at least another week, the chief executive of Tyson Foods Inc told Reuters on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic fuels panic buying among shoppers.

USDA’s monthly cattle on feed report will be released on Friday at 2 p.m. CDT (1900 GMT). Analysts were expecting the report to show that February cattle placements were down 7.6% from year ago. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub Editing by Leslie Adler)