Cash Cattle Trade On Hold, Despite Scattered Deals

5-8-14 – Despite scattered sales at $145 per cwt on a live basis, most packer buyers and feedlot managers are not yet ready to shake hands on a fed-cattle price. \r\n\r\n Light sales also were posted Wednesday in Nebraska at $238 per cwt on a dressed basis, which would be about $145 live with a 61% yield.\r\n\r\n June live cattle futures closed Wednesday at $137.57, down $0.72, under pressure from lower boxed-beef prices this week and monthly fund position rolling. The contract has rebounded in overnight trade, however, regaining even more than it lost Wednesday.\r\n\r\n At Wednesday’s settlement, the basis with the cash market is about $7.43. The Livestock Marketing Information Center says the five-year average basis for this week is $2.86 with a standard deviation of $1.31, meaning the cash and futures markets are out of balance. Cash should have a tendency to work lower, or futures should have an upward bias, or both.\r\n\r\n Many market analysts say the cash market should move toward futures since first-quarter feedlot placements suggest larger slaughter supplies, and increased beef production, over the summer. But for the last three weeks, cash prices have been about steady, holding within a range from $145 to $148.\r\n\r\n Some thought they were seeing the start of the projected dive into summer two weeks ago when cash values slipped $1 to $2 to $145 to $146. But last week, the market bounced to trade at mostly $146 to $147 with a few in Nebraska up to $148.\r\n\r\n Despite the light cash action at $145 this week, most feedlots are holding to asking prices around $148 against packer bids of mostly $144.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nFEEDER CATTLE HOLD BULLISH BIAS\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n Cash feeder cattle prices continue to work higher in spite of Wednesday’s dip and technical indicators that say the futures market is overbought and due for a pullback. \r\n\r\n The CME’s Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was unchanged at $181.10 per cwt, compared with a May settlement Wednesday of $183.02, down $0.45. Futures overnight have followed live cattle, rebounding to retake part of Wednesday’s losses.\r\n\r\n But the stress of holding an overbought condition likely will mean more day-to-day volatility for the market\r\n\r\n Representative cash markets for feeder cattle and calves also remain on an upward tack amid tightening supplies. Colorado 875-pound steers Wednesday brought $170 for August delivery, while 800-pound steers in Texas brought 179.75 for July delivery.\r\n\r\n Kansas heifers weighing 700 pounds sold at $174 for August delivery, while Texas heifers brought $175.95 for June delivery.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nBEEF MARKETS SLIDING\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n The USDA’s boxed-beef cutout value slipped again on Wednesday, and a lack of buying interest for the Memorial Day holiday is beginning to worry some cattle traders. \r\n\r\n With Mother’s day and Memorial Day to anchor it, May is “Beef Month” for the industry as restaurants fill for Mother’s day and back yard grill fire up for Memorial Day. But after stocking up for Mother’s Day, retail grocers seem more hesitant about Memorial Day.\r\n\r\n The USDA’s choice boxed-beef quote Wednesday was $227.15 per cwt, down $0.73 from Tuesday and down $5.95 from a week earlier. The select cutout Wednesday was $213.26, down $0.30 for the day and off $9.03 for the week.\r\n\r\n The choice/select spread narrowed to $13.89, and there were 146 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.\r\n\r\n USDA figures compiled by Beef Magazine show per-capita spending on beef bottomed in 1998 and has risen unevenly ever since. Beef’s market share also rebounded then, peaking in 2007. Since then, beef’s market share has slipped but is holding steady at about 47% to 48%.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nIN OUR OPINION\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n–Rain in the central Plains last night and today will help some fields as they head out and fill, but the Hard Red Winter Wheat crop may be one of the worst on record.\r\n\r\n–Landed and projected soybean imports may be enough to make a difference to US ending stocks and pressure prices.\r\n\r\n–Hog slaughter rates are being hit by PEDv death losses, but rising finished weights are capping summer futures prices.\r\n\r\n–Long term, PEDv and African Swine Fever are likely to take world pork supplies lower, and the effect could be long-lasting.