Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures jumped about 2 percent on Friday, gaining on technical buying and hopes that China could soon boost imports of U.S. beef, traders and analysts said.
Feeder cattle futures surged 3 percent, rising by their daily trading limit of 4.500 cents late in the session in a rebound from declines earlier this week. The lower prices made it profitable for feedlots to buy cattle for fattening, prompting buying.
"This is a market that was due for a correction to the upside," said CHS Hedging analyst Steve Wagner. "Without the massive liquidation by funds, it doesn't take much."
Investment funds had sold off a portion of a record-large net long in CME cattle futures during a roll in which investors tracking the Standard & Poor's Goldman Sachs Commodity Index exited positions in June cattle and moved into deferred months.
CME June live cattle settled up 1.250 cents at 125.175 cents per pound and August cattle up 2.100 cents to 121.775 cents per pound.
CME August feeder cattle were up 4.500 cents to 151.825 cents per pound. Trading limits will expand to 6.750 cents on Monday after feeders finished limit-up on Friday, the CME Group said on its website.
The higher futures came even as cattle traded at mostly $137 to $138 per cwt in the Plains this week, down from sales of $140 to $147 last week.
Analysts said demand for cattle remained robust, with the U.S. cattle slaughter running about 5.8 percent ahead of last year and wholesale beef prices at the highest levels since 2015, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross late on Thursday said China will begin allowing imports of U.S. beef no later than July 16. U.S. meat trade groups have been pushing for China to reopen its market to beef after a ban was imposed in 2003 due to a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.
CME June lean hog futures were 0.900 cent higher to 77.950 cents per pound and July hogs up 1.525 cents to 78.600 cents, tracking gains in cattle.
"Hogs have been a follower all year, and that hasn't changed," Wagner said.