CHICAGO, April 20 (Reuters) - Live cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit their highest in nearly two months on Wednesday, led by firming prices for market-ready cattle in the cash market, traders said.
Live cattle traded as high as $146 per hundredweight (cwt) in eastern Nebraska cash markets, traders said, while dressed cattle in Nebraska reached $236 per cwt. Week-to-date trades in the southern Plains were mostly at $140, up $1 from last week, with a few trades at $141.
“The cash market finally has some strength. It feels like the packers are trying to chase it a little bit,” said Don Roose, president of Iowa-based U.S. Commodities.
CME June live cattle futures settled up 2.050 cents at 138.625 cents per pound after reaching 138.850, the contract’s highest since Feb. 28. CME May feeder cattle futures ended up 1.700 cents at 162.475 cents per pound.
However, wholesale beef prices declined. Boxed beef prices fell by $1.11 for choice cuts to $268.82 per cwt, and select cuts fell $2.68 to $256.53 per cwt, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
Traders await Friday’s monthly USDA Cattle on Feed report. Analysts surveyed by Reuters on average expect the government to show that feedlot placements in March fell 7.8% from a year earlier and marketings dropped 1.8%.
In the pork markets, CME lean hog futures ended lower on Wednesday for a second straight session on profit-taking. Benchmark June lean hogs settled down 2.575 cents at 118.750 cents per pound.
However, U.S. pork cutout values firmed. Carcasses were priced at $108.49 per cwt, up $1.37 from Tuesday, according to USDA data.
Slowing demand for U.S. pork exports to China, the world’s top pork consumer, has hung over the futures market at times, capping rallies. China boosted its pork production after an outbreak of African swine fever devastated Chinese herds starting in 2018.
Chinese hog farmers should return to profit in the third quarter, a Chinese farm official said, after more than a year of heavy losses that have eroded rural incomes and curbed demand for some feed ingredients. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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