LIVESTOCK-CME cattle futures rise as grains fall; hogs ease ahead of USDA data

CHICAGO, March 29 (Reuters) - Live cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange rose on Tuesday with the benchmark June contract hitting a four-week top, led by a surge in feeder cattle futures and optimism about consumer demand for beef, traders said.

CME June live cattle settled up 1.700 cents at 138.475 cents per pound while May feeder cattle jumped 4.325 cents to end at 169.400 cents per pound.

Feeder cattle got a boost as Chicago Board of Trade corn futures fell nearly 3%, signaling cheaper feed costs, on signs of progress to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has disrupted grain exports in the Black Sea.

Crude oil prices eased and Wall Street equity markets rose after Russia pledged to cut down on military operations around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine, while Ukraine proposed adopting a neutral status.

Moves in those markets helped lift cattle futures.

“With energy (prices) down and the stock market up, the consumer maybe has more interest in buying high-priced beef,” said Don Roose, president of Iowa-based U.S. Commodities.

Also, beef prices typically start to climb in the spring with the approach of Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer grilling season, Roose added.

CME lean hog futures declined, with the June contract retreating from life-of-contract highs set a day earlier as traders braced for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quarterly Hogs and Pigs report due Wednesday.

CME June hogs settled down 1.425 cents at 124.625 cents per pound.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters on average expect the USDA to show that the U.S. hog herd was 1.2% smaller as of March 1 compared to a year earlier.

However, Roose noted, the average analyst estimate of the herd, at 73.046 million head, would still be the fourth-largest March 1 figure on record. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Sam Holmes)