U.S. livestock: CME cattle sag on supply expectations

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Chicago | Reuters — U.S. cattle futures weakened on Wednesday as traders prepared for a government report that is expected to confirm the nation’s supplies have expanded from a year ago.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will report on Friday that there were 11.948 million head of cattle on feed for slaughter as of Jan. 1, up 2.2 per cent from a year earlier, according to a Reuters poll of 10 analysts. The agency is expected to report that 1.828 million cattle were placed in feedlots during December, up 3.4 per cent from the previous year, the poll shows.

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“Expecting big numbers like that, we’re seeing a little bit of selling ahead of the report,” a broker said.

April live cattle futures ended down 0.45 cent at 126.775 cents/lb. at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (all figures US$). March feeder cattle futures slid 1.625 cents, to 143.05 cents/lb.

Prices rose in the pork market. February lean hog futures edged up 0.2 cent to 67.55 cents/lb. at the CME, while the April contract gained 0.7 cent to close at 74.525 cents.

Traders continued to wait for signs of increased demand from China after Beijing pledged to increase imports of U.S. agricultural products in an initial trade deal the countries signed last week. The agreement is meant to reduce tensions after nearly two years of a tit-for-tat tariff war.

Farmers are hoping China will increase imports of U.S. meat, particularly pork, because its hog herd has been decimated by a fatal pig disease. Beijing will continue selling state frozen pork reserves to increase supplies after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, according to a notice on the website for the China Merchandise Reserve Management Center.

China said five per cent of 243 samples taken recently from slaughterhouses in eight provinces contained the African swine fever virus. The disease can spread through direct contact between pigs and also survive in meat.

African swine fever has been detected in European countries including Poland, Belgium and Bulgaria, but countries that have avoided the disease want to keep it out. Italy’s tax police seized and destroyed 9.5 tonnes of pork from China as part of a prevention effort, police in the northeastern city of Padoa said.

African swine fever was discovered in a wild boar in Poland just 12 km from the German border, Germany’s agriculture ministry said.

— Tom Polansek reports on agriculture and ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago.

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