KANSAS CITY (Dow Jones)--After a surprising midweek fed cattle trade at prices that are $2 to $3 per hundredweight higher than last week, market analysts and brokers Thursday said the week's activity was done.

Estimates of the number of cattle traded indicate that many feedlots sold more cattle than they had up for sale this week, dipping into cattle they intended to offer to packer buyers next week. Analysts and brokers said this could help to support prices next week.

Brokers and analysts estimated that 32,000 head sold in the Texas/Oklahoma area at mostly $88 on a live basis while Kansas feeders parted with 30,000 head at $87. In Colorado, 5,000 head were sold at $87 live and $136 dressed, and packer buyers in Nebraska bought 40,000 or more at $86 to $87 and $133 to $135.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the average price last week for fed steers at $84.58 on a live basis and for fed heifers at $84.60, although some feeders received as much as $86 later in the week. On a dressed basis, the USDA reported steers last week averaged $131.61 and heifers averaged $131.76.

The force of Wednesday's trade caught many traders off guard. Many were expecting a Friday trade after the usual weekly negotiation dance of the buyers and sellers before agreeing grudgingly to trade.

Analysts and brokers can only guess at the reasoning behind the sudden push by packer buyers to own cattle when just a few weeks ago they were able to demand extra time to remove cattle from the feedlots as a condition of purchase.

The prevailing thought is that the number of market-ready cattle is tight right now and that packers have enough holiday beef orders that they need the cattle to slaughter next week. Some don't think packers really have a lot of holiday beef orders but since cattle numbers are tight, buyers are securing the cattle they hope to need next week, they say.

The HedgersEdge packer margin index is a plus $1.55 per head, compared with the previous index of plus $7.30.

The USDA reported its latest choice boxed beef cutout price at $141.79 per hundredweight, up $0.13, while select beef was up $0.14 at $136.41. The volume of fabricated loads was 190 and there were 69 loads of trimmings and coarse grind product reported.

Urner Barry's Yellow Sheet Wednesday said the boxed beef market was fairly neutral.


-By Lester Aldrich, Dow Jones Newswires; 913-322-5179; lester.aldrich@dowjones.com