U.S. cattle placements fall seventh straight month

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CHICAGO - The number of cattle placed in U.S. feedlots in December fell for a seventh straight month, a government report showed on Friday, in a sign of high feed costs continuing to roil the industry after the worst drought in half a century.

The decline was against trade expectations for the first monthly increase in placements since May.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture showed placements down 1 percent from a year earlier to 1.664 million head, extending its string of monthly declines since May. The average analyst estimate was for a 3.8 percent increase.

USDA put supply of cattle in feedlots on Jan. 1 at 11.193 million head, or 94 percent of the year-ago total. Analysts polled by Reuters, on average, expected 95.5 percent.

And, the government said the number of cattle sold to packers, or marketings, in December was down 2 percent from a year earlier, to 1.745 million head versus forecast for a 6.9 percent reduction.

Analysts viewed Friday's cattle report as bullish for Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures on Monday, with some analysts calling the market to rise by as much as 1.000 cents.

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