U.S. beef exports were down 5.3% in April compared to a year earlier. Mexico purchased more U.S. beef, but shipments to Hong Kong and Japan were down. For January-April, beef exports were down 0.4%.
U.S. beef imports were down 21.2% in April due to a big drop in imports from Australia and New Zealand. During January-April U.S. beef imports were down 12.8%.
Live cattle imports were up 2.9% compared to April 2015 with 22.7% more Mexican cattle coming north and 13.7% fewer Canadian cattle coming south. During the first one-third of 2016 cattle imports were down 8.8%.
Fed cattle prices were higher this week in moderate volume. Through Thursday, the 5-area average price for slaughter steers sold on a live weight basis was $126.81/cwt, up $3.99 from last week's average and down $28.05 from a year ago. The 5-area dressed steer price averaged $202.87/cwt, up $1.55 from the week before, but down $42.32 from a year ago.
This morning the choice boxed beef cutout value was $226.98/cwt, up $4.25 from the previous Friday, but down $20.16 from a year ago. The select carcass cutout this morning was $203.72/cwt, up $2.95 from last week, but down $37.58 compared to last year. The choice-select spread today is an incredible $23.26/cwt. Earlier this week, the choice-select price spread exceeded $24/cwt, higher than any time at least since 2003 and perhaps an all-time record.
This week's cattle slaughter totaled 591,000 head, up 13.7% from last week which was light because of Memorial Day, and up 9.4% from a year ago. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending on May 28 was 859 pounds, down 3 pounds from the week before and down 5 pounds from a year ago. This was the fourth consecutive week that steer weights have averaged below the year-ago level and follows 98 consecutive weeks when weights were above the year-ago level.
Feeder cattle prices at Oklahoma City this week were $3 to $8 higher than two weeks ago. Stocker calf prices were up $2 to $4/cwt. There was no Oklahoma City auction last week because of the Memorial Day holiday. Oklahoma City prices for medium and large frame #1 steers by weight group were: 400-450# $168-$189, 450-500# $179.50-$183, 500-550# $159-$176, 550-600# $152.50-$170.50, 600-650# $153-$159, 650-700# $145-$159, 700-750# $138-$153.25, 750-800# $144.50-$148, 800-900# $132.50-$150.25 and 900-1000# $130-$139.75/cwt.
The June live cattle futures contract settled at $122.45/cwt today, up 45 cents for the week. August fed cattle settled at $117.35/cwt, down 45 cents from the previous Friday. October ended the week at $116.80/cwt.
August feeder cattle futures ended the week at $145.55/cwt, down $1.12 from a week earlier. October feeder cattle closed the week down $1.13 at $142.62/cwt.