U.S. beef exports were down 7.0% in December and down 0.7% for all of 2014. For the year, the biggest growth markets were Hong Kong, South Korea and Mexico. The biggest decline in beef exports was in shipments to Canada.

U.S. beef imports were up 72.7% in December and for all of 2014 were up 31.0%. Australia accounted for 66% of the increase in imports.

The number of cattle imported from Canada was up 19% and the number coming north from Mexico was up 12.8% compared to 2013.

Boxed beef prices dropped for the third consecutive week. This morning the boxed beef cutout value for choice carcasses was $239.98/cwt, down $3.41 from the previous Friday, but up $27.73 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $234.84/cwt this morning, down $2.19 from last week, but up $24.88 from a year ago.

Fed cattle prices were mixed this week on light sales volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $158.73/cwt, down 74 cents from last week's average, but up $18.17 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price for steers was $252.00/cwt, up $1.93 for the week and up $26.65 compared to a year ago.

Cattle slaughter this week totaled 544,000 head, down 3.4% from the week before and also down 3.4% from the comparable week last year.

The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on January 24 was 880 pounds, down 2 pounds from the week before, but up 7 pounds compared to the same week last year. This is the closest steer weights have been to a year ago since the week ending on July 19.

After three weeks of decline, feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City were $8 to $12 higher this week. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $310.50, 500-550# $279-$280, 550-600# $255-$269, 600-650# $225-$250, 650-700# $215.50-$232, 700-750# $212.50-$218.50, 750-800# $198-$215, 800-900# $186.50-$200.25, 900-1000#, $179-$191/cwt.

The February live cattle futures contract today settled at $156.07, up $1.22 for the week. April fed cattle settled at $151.02/cwt, down $1.25 from the previous Friday. June fed cattle lost 37 cents this week to settle at $144.25/cwt.

The March feeder cattle contract ended the week at $199.45/cwt, down $5.75 for the week. The April feeder contract lost $6.25 this week to settle at $199.15/cwt. The May contract ended the week at $199.67/cwt.