U.S. cattle futures settled lower resisting a broad rebound in commodities on concerns over slack beef demand and growing supplies of slaughter-ready cattle.
Lean hog futures ended mixed, with the June contract, which is the most heavily traded, climbing in concert with most other commodities Monday.
The June futures contract for cattle settled down 0.85 cent, or 0.8%, at $1.09 a pound, while the August contract fell 0.7 cent, or 0.6%, to $1.1087 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Futures for young cattle, known as feeders, also settled lower, with the May futures contract down 1.12 cents, or 0.9%, to $1.28 a pound.
Cattle futures continued their sell off from record highs last month even as most other commodities rallied, with crude oil settling up 5.5% to $102.55 a barrel and wheat finishing 4.1% higher at $7.90 1/2 a bushel.
Stronger outside markets aren't enough to boost cattle futures at this point, with traders needing to see signs of strengthening demand before they step back into the market, said Tom Leffler, owner of Leffler Commodities.
"We are going to need a little help from all directions," he said.
Market participants need to see cash cattle and wholesale beef markets start paring recent declines in order to believe demand is stabilizing or even rebounding as prices decline. Cattle and beef prices have dropped in the face of weakening demand as consumers watch their spending in the face of higher gas prices and grilling season gets a slow start in many parts of the country because of poor weather.
Supplies are providing pressure on futures prices as well. Increased placements of young cattle into feedlots last year means a growing number of slaughter-ready cattle are coming to market, and an upcoming seasonal peak in supplies could spill over into June as packers hold back on buying, said John Ginzel, analyst with the Linn Group.
In cash markets, participants said trading may not develop until mid-week or possibly later. No bids are reported yet. The majority of sales last week in Texas and Kansas occurred on Tuesday at mostly $1.15 a pound followed by a few sales later in the week at $1.14 and $1.13 a pound. In Nebraska, dressed sales last week were at mostly $1.85 a pound, but in a full range from $1.82 to $1.86 a pound.
Boxed beef prices, which are a measure of wholesale prices, were mixed at midday with choice quoted up 19 cents at $177.34 per hundred pounds and select down 49 cents at $169.99 per hundred pounds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The latest HedgersEdge packer margin index is minus $43.20 a head, compared with the previous estimate of minus $30.85 a head. This is an estimate of packer returns on cattle slaughtered and processed expressed in the form of an index.