The amount of beef in cold storage at the end of October was up 34% from a year ago. Frozen pork stocks were up 13% and broiler meat was up 31%. Total stocks of frozen red meat were the highest ever for the end of October.
The December jobs report said that 211,000 jobs were added to the economy during November. The unemployment rate held steady at 5%. That is good news for meat demand. It increases the likelihood that the Federal Reserve Bank will raise interest rates later this month.
This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $203.37/cwt, down $1.61 from the previous Friday and down $50.50 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout was $192.62/cwt, down $3.05 from last week and down $45.16 from a year ago. As is often the case at this time of year, the choice-select spread (currently $10.75/cwt) is much wider than normal.
Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $123.41/cwt, up 19 cents from last week's average, but down $43.20 from a year ago. The 5 area average dressed price this week for steers was $194.44/cwt, down 56 cents for the week and down $69.53 compared to the same week last year.
Slaughter weights continue to be very heavy. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on November 21 was 925 pounds, unchanged from the week before, up 24 pounds compared to the same week last year, above the year-ago level for the 75rd consecutive week, and 19 pounds heavier than any week prior to September.
Cattle slaughter this week totaled 560,000 head, up 22.0% from the week before which was low because of the Thanksgiving holiday but down 0.7% from the same week last year.
The feeder cattle price trend at Oklahoma City was unclear this week on light sales volume. Prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# none, 450-500# $221-$225, 500-550# $198.50-$208, 550-600# $170-$195.50, 600-650# $174-$188, 650-700# $166-$175, 700-750# $166-$172, 750-800# none, 800-900# $164.50 and 900-1000# none.
Cattle futures were lower this week. The December live cattle futures contract settled at $124.275/cwt today, down $7.55 for the week. February fed cattle settled at $129.225/cwt, down $4.63 from the previous week. The April contract ended the week at $129.975/cwt, off $4.15.
January feeder cattle ended the week at $159.45/cwt, down $6.58 from a week earlier. March lost $6.38 this week and closed at $157.30/cwt.