U.S. cattle futures are mostly weaker as a strong dollar and increase in China's interest rate pulls down commodities generally.
CME live cattle for August delivery was recently down 0.75 cent, or 0.67%, to $1.126 a pound in early trading. CME August feeder cattle was up slightly, climbing 0.075 cent to $1.14135, but other contracts were lower.
The cattle complex was dragged lower amid selling in a range of commodities, from crude oil to corn, as a stronger dollar weighed. The dollar climbed on worries about Europe's debt crisis, particularly in Portugal. China's decision overnight to raise interest rates, as part of an effort to slow inflation, was also negative for commodities, analysts said.
In the face of that pressure, traders saw little reason to push cattle prices higher. Futures had little guidance from the cash market, and the demand outlook is questionable, analysts said.
While beef clearance, or retail demand, was solid over the July Fourth holiday weekend, Central States Commodities President Jason Britt said it was better for hamburger than more expensive cuts of meat. Economic struggles tend to hurt beef demand, more so than many other commodities, he said.
"If unemployment is high and confidence is low, you're not going to go out and buy a big steak," he said.
Near-term cattle supplies are ample, analysts add, although a decline in cattle placed in feedlots will lead to tighter supplies in the months ahead.
Cash cattle bids are not yet established across the Plains states, but some are expected later in the day. Asking prices are not fully established either but some owners are pricing animals from $1.14 to $1.15 a pound on a live basis, or 2 to 3 cents a pound above last week's sales prices. Initial asking prices are typically higher and early bids lower than the previous week's trading levels as buyers and sellers begin the negotiating process.
Sales last week in the Texas Panhandle were from $1.12 to $1.13 a pound, mostly $1.1250 a pound. In Kansas, the majority of sales were at $1.12 a pound. Dressed sales in Nebraska last week were from $1.77 to $1.81 but mostly at $1.80 a pound. USDA's wholesale beef prices Tuesday were higher. The choice beef carcass composite value rose 58 cents to $179.18 a hundred pounds. Select was up $1.26 to $173.57 a hundred pounds.
The latest HedgersEdge packer margin index is plus $27.05 a head, compared with $11.55 the previous day. This is an estimate of packer returns on the cattle they slaughter and process expressed in the form of an index.
Wednesday's cattle slaughter is projected to be about 130,000 head.