LIVESTOCK-Live cattle futures ease as demand picture remains foggy

CHICAGO, July 23 (Reuters) - U.S. live cattle futures fell again Thursday, the fourth-consecutive step back after reaching a high not seen since early March.

“The rally last week was kind of counter seasonal. You typically don’t rally the cattle in late July, early August, in the dog days of summer,” said Jeff French, an analyst at Top Third Ag Marketing. “There’s a little bit of a reluctance to push these futures higher.”

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) August live cattle futures settled down 0.650 cent at 100.850 cents per pound and October live cattle fell 1.125 cents to 104.600 cents per pound.

CME August feeder cattle futures settled up 0.500 cent at 142.025 cents per pound, while September feeder cattle slid 0.100 cent to 143.175 cents per pound.

Cattle slaughter has picked up in recent weeks, trimming the backlog in cattle that has led to heavier carcass weights. But processors may be through the heaviest animals, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“They had been trending higher and higher, compared to last year, every week. But this week, we’ve kind of topped out, same as last week,” said French.

Meanwhile, hogs continued a increase, with CME lean hog futures gaining for a third straight session on Thursday on firming pork and cash hog prices.

August futures settled up 1.825 cents at 54.475 cents per pound while October futures added 0.950 cent to 51.025 cents per pound.

“The backlog of hogs, the heavy hogs – it’s just old news. The market is digesting that. We’re starting to see pork product values, as well as cash prices edge higher, but it’s going to be an uphill battle,” said French. (Reporting by Christopher Walljasper; editing by Diane Craft)