CME lean hogs surge 4% as pork prices jump; cattle to 8-yr top

Chicago Mercantile Exchange lean hog futures surged more than 4% on Tuesday, with the benchmark April contract hitting a six-week top following a jump in wholesale pork prices over the long U.S. holiday weekend, traders said.

Live cattle futures also climbed, with the spot contract reaching a multi-year high for a sixth straight session amid rising beef prices, firm cash cattle markets and worries that a winter storm crossing the northern Plains and Midwest could stress cattle.

Hogs rose the most on a percentage basis. CME April hogs settled up 3.825 cents, or 4.85%, at 89.100 cents per pound and June hogs ended up 2.550 cents at 105.275 cents.

Hog futures bolted higher after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priced the pork carcass cutout at $87.72 per hundredweight (cwt) on Monday while U.S. markets were closed for a holiday, up $5.63 from Friday and the highest since Dec. 30.

“(The) strong cutout price surge from yesterday was a pleasant surprise,” said Dan Norcini, an independent livestock trader. “The key to further gains will be watching to see if the cutout can continue to stay firm and work its way higher. U.S. pork is definitely cheap,” Norcini said.

Cutout values cooled on Tuesday afternoon, with carcasses priced at $83.01 per cwt, down $4.71 from Monday.

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In CME cattle markets, thinly traded February live cattle futures settled up 1.175 cents at 164.750 cents per pound after reaching 164.975 cents, the highest on a continuous chart of the front contract since January 2015. April cattle, the most active contract, finished up 0.450 cent at 165.100 cents per pound after posting a contract high at 165.775 cents.

CME March feeder cattle futures settled up 0.350 cent at 186.875 cents per pound.

Soaring wholesale beef prices lent support. Choice cuts rose to $282.89 per cwt on Monday and reached $287.20 on Tuesday afternoon, the highest in 13 months, according to USDA data. Select cuts reached $270.84 per cwt by Tuesday, the highest in a year.

Market players await the USDA’s monthly Cattle on Feed report on Friday. Analysts surveyed by Reuters on average expected the government to report the number of cattle in U.S. feedlots as of Feb. 1 at 11.772 million head, down 3.5% from a year ago. Analysts on average estimated cattle marketings in January at 1.842 million head, up 3.9% from a year earlier.