Slow demand and large supplies of competing meats continue to weigh on cattle and beef prices, but some signs of life late last week create a little optimism. Live-steer prices averaged $80.85 last week, as the anticipated fall rally has failed to materialize.

Slaughter numbers last week, at 634,000 head, were down slightly from the prior week and about 3 percent lower than one year ago. Slightly heavier live and carcass weights resulted in beef production about 2 percent lower than one year ago.

Analysts at the Texas Cattle Feeders Association note that carcass weights have continued to climb seasonally over the past few weeks, particularly in northern feeding areas. If slaughter weights follow the usual seasonal trend, they should peak around the middle of this month. Last week’s average live weight, at 1,316 pounds according to USDA, was five pounds heavier that the previous week and 6 pounds heavier than one year ago.

Boxed beef prices again lost ground last week, averaging $134.46 per hundredweight, down from $137.25 the previous week and almost 12 percent below the year-ago average of $152.27.

Trimmings were mixed, with 50 percent lean gaining slightly from the previous week to average $46.36 per hundredweight, and 90 percent lean dropping about a dollar to $125.31. Both remain well below the prices from a year ago, however, when 50s averaged $8159 and 90s averaged $151.18.

But after declining through much of the week, boxed-beef prices posted marginal gains Thursday and Friday, as did cattle futures, creating some optimism that cash prices could respond.