LIVESTOCK-U.S. cattle futures jump in end-of-month, quarter rebound

CHICAGO, March 31 (Reuters) - U.S. live cattle futures rallied by as much as the daily 3-cent trading limit on Tuesday in an end-of-month and end-of-quarter profit-taking bounce following a steep drop fueled by concerns about the fast-spreading coronavirus and its economic impact.

The recent dive in prices as governments imposed stay-at-home orders and restrictions on travel have dragged cattle futures to levels well below cash market values, leaving the market poised for a rebound.

Lean hog futures were also higher in most months, with only the lightly-traded nearby April and May contracts posting declines on the day.

“Today’s action was end-of-month and end-of-quarter position squaring. We’ve come down a long way,” said Alan Brugler, president of Brugler Marketing & Management.

Cash beef prices and beef packer margins have dropped from recent highs as the market reacts to the longer term impact of prolonged coronavirus restrictions.

Cash cattle markets have provided little direction this week as packer bids at feedlot cattle markets in the U.S. Plains remain elusive after cattle traded at $117 to $120 per cwt last week.

Livestock traders, meanwhile, are watching for any potential disruptions to the food supply chain from coronavirus infections. Traders worry that shutdowns could back up supplies of livestock by removing markets for the animals.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange April contract gained 2.625 cents to 101.825 cents per pound, while actively-traded June futures finished up 3.000 cents at 92.075 cents. Limits for live cattle will expand to 4.5 cents for Wednesday’s trading session after the limit-up close.

CME May feeder cattle futures settled 2.000 cents higher at 122.900 cents a pound.

CME April lean hog futures fell 1.750 cents to 52.200 cents per lb. Most-active June lean hogs fell to a life-of-contract low but ended up 0.550 cent at 60.325 cents. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Tom Brown)