Hog futures end mixed ahead of USDA data; cattle close lower

CHICAGO, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Chicago Mercantile Exchange lean hog futures closed mixed on Friday, with the front February contract gaining against deferred months as traders squared positions ahead of a quarterly U.S. government hog report due next week, traders said.

Most-active February hog futures settled up 0.450 cent at 80.800 cents per pound, while April hogs ended down 0.100 cent at 84.775 cents.

The fact that the February gained against the April could be a sign of market expectations for tightening hog supplies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's quarterly Hogs and Pigs report, due for release on Dec. 23.

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"This is telling me that the odds are favorable that the 'kept for market' hog category could be bullish on the Hog and Pig (report) next week," said Dennis Smith, commodity broker at Archer Financial.

Cash hog values firmed. The CME's lean hog index (.IHX), a two-day weighted average of cash hog prices, rose to 72.41 cents per pound, its highest since Nov. 24.

But wholesale pork values fell. The USDA quoted the U.S. pork cutout at $85.82 per hundredweight (cwt) on Friday afternoon, down $5.67 from Thursday's one-month high, as ham prices tumbled.

CME live cattle futures closed lower in range-bound trade. The February contract settled down 0.625 cent at 136.425 cents per pound but stayed inside of Thursday's trading range, finding chart support at its 100-day moving average near 136 cents.

CME January feeder cattle futures tumbled 2.325 cents to 160.250 cents per pound and March feeders fell 2.625 cents at 161.700 cents.

Wholesale boxed beef prices appeared to stabilize after a six-week slide, with choice cuts up $0.04 at $263.01 per cwt and select cuts up $0.14 at $248.28, according to the USDA.

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Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Michael Perry

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