Hog futures rise on firm cash markets, higher pork prices

CHICAGO, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Chicago Mercantile Exchange lean hog futures rose in thin trade on Thursday to halt a three-session slide, buoyed by firming cash hog markets and higher wholesale pork prices, analysts said.

Most-active February hog futures settled up 1.025 cents at 80.350 cents per pound. Trading volume for all months was estimated by CME at 19,460 contracts, which would be the lowest for hogs since December 2020 if confirmed in final figures.

The CME's lean hog index (.IHX), a two-day weighted average of cash hog prices, rose to 72.30 cents per pound, a three-week top.

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"The cash tone has been firming, and the cutout was up at midday. I don't think there was a lot of news in the market," said Doug Houghton, an analyst with Brock Capital Management.

U.S. wholesale pork values rose to their highest in a month, with the cutout priced at $91.49 per hundredweight (cwt), up $3.66 from Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported.

Traders have also begun adjusting positions ahead of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) quarterly hogs and pigs report which is scheduled for release on Dec. 23.

In the cattle markets, live cattle futures closed mostly higher. The CME February contract settled up 0.475 cent at 137.050 cents per pound, rallying on bargain-buying after finding chart support below its 100-day moving average near 136 cents.

CME January feeder cattle futures ended down 0.850 cent at 162.575 cents per pound and March feeders fell 0.150 cent to 164.325 cents, losing ground to back months on spreads.

Wholesale boxed beef prices firmed, pausing after a six-week slide, with choice cuts up $2.71 at $262.97 per cwt, according to the USDA.

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Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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