U.S. live cattle futures fell Friday as investors repositioned books after a prior-day selloff and waited for fundamentals to justify fresh long positions.
Cattle for October delivery fell 1.65 cent, or 1.9%, to 87.35 cents a pound in trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. CME December cattle traded lower by 0.47 cent, or 0.4%, to $1.1895 a pound. Feeder cattle for September fell 0.3 cent, or 0.2%, to $1.353 a pound.
The cattle complex felt pressure from Thursday's selloff as investors pulled back from positions after cash prices for cattle rose more quickly than wholesale beef prices. The uneven rises have trimmed margins at meat packers, which some traders suspect will trim slaughter schedules until prices recover.
The latest HedgersEdge packer margin index per cattle is minus 60 cents per head, compared with positive $2.60 the previous day. This is an estimate of packer returns on cattle slaughtered and processed, expressed in the form of an index. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday that choice beef prices were up 59 cents to $185.79 a hundredweight. Select beef was up 63 cents to $173.68. The report included prices for 86 total loads.
The rise-and-fall in futures has also intensified the tug-of-war with cash markets, which rose sharply last week but then eased a bit on Thursday and Friday as owners accepted slightly lower prices in light trading. Although lower futures encouraged some owners to sell animals at mostly $1.17 a pound, resiliently high futures prices are enticing others to hold back animals and wait for higher prices.
In Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, for example, trading was very light. In Kansas, about 13,000 animals changed hands.