The government said the unemployment rate dipped to 8.5% in December. Hopefully, the economy will put in a stronger performance this year than last.

Fed cattle prices were lower this week in light volume. The 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold through Thursday of this week on a live weight basis was $121.00/cwt, down $3.00 from last week, but $15.55/cwt above the same week last year. Not enough fed cattle were sold on a dressed weight basis for a market quote.

Beef cutout value also was lower this week. On Friday morning, the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $190.34/cwt, down $4.26 from last week. The select carcass cutout was down 43 cents from the previous Friday to $179.28 per hundred pounds of carcass weight. The choice-select spread, $11.06, was down $3.84 from a week earlier to the lowest level since September 14.

This week's cattle slaughter totaled 640,000 head, up 3.9% from the week before and down 12.5% compared to a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending December 24 was 849 pounds, up 3 pounds from the week before, but down 6 pounds from a year ago.

Feeder cattle sales were light again week. Oklahoma City did not have a sale this week because of the New Year's holiday. Prices this week at most auctions across the country were $2 to $10 higher than last week. Missouri auctions were $2 to as much as $15 higher than last week. Price ranges for medium and large frame #1 steers were: 400-450# $162-$200, 450-500# $160-$198, 500-550# $149.50-$185.50, 550-600# $142-$178.50, 600-650# $135-$169, 650-700# $136.50-$164, 700-750# $129.75-$155.75, 750-800# $126-$153, 800-850# $124.50-$152.60/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract settled at $120.32/cwt today, down $1.13 compared to last Friday. The April contract closed at $124.60/cwt, off 85 cents for the week. The June contract settled at $124.00/cwt. August ended the week at $126.05/cwt.

The January feeder cattle futures contract gained 95 cents this week and settled at $147.30/cwt. March feeder cattle ended the week at $149.88 and the April contract settled at $151.20.

The March corn futures contract ended the week at $6.435/bushel, down 3 cents from the week. May closed at $6.5075 and July ended the week at $6.5575.

Source: Ron Plain