U.S. lean hog futures remain under pressure from concerns about slowed pork demand and flat to lower expectations for cash prices Friday.
May lean hogs at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange were recently off 0.50 cent, or 0.5%, at 96.30 cents a pound. June hog futures, the most active contract, were down 0.75c, or nearly 0.8%, at 95.75 cents.
Prices in most-active June hogs had fallen more than 6% from the April 20 high to Thursday's close, which removed much of the premium that had been built into futures over cash prices, analysts said. But, there are still concerns among traders and some analysts about slow pork demand and thin to negative pork processing margins.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's pork carcass value Thursday was down $0.68 at $91.76, lowest since March 16. Since a mid-April peak at $96.57, wholesale pork prices have fallen $4.81, or nearly 5%.
During the past two weeks, the CME's two-day cash index, calculated from the USDA's hog price data, has held in a range from 94.04 to 94.90 cents a pound. June futures during that period have fallen from a high of $1.0280 on April 20 to Thursday's six-week low at 95.42 cents before closing at 96.50 cents.
Following the steep slide, which took prices down near the March lows and near current cash quotes, some short-covering could occur and lift prices ahead of the weekend, said Don Roose, analyst with US Commodities.
Lower pork prices may rekindle some buying interest among grocers for promotions in May. The lower prices may buy back some demand, a broker said.
In the cash markets, bids were expected to range from flat to $1 per hundredweight lower as processors bid cautiously. Thin to negative processing margins may cause some plants to consider trimming their slaughter schedules for next week. The latest Dow Jones Newswires pork packer margin index for Thursday was minus $0.84 per head. Processors enjoyed wide positive margins throughout the first quarter.
The terminal markets were expected to trade flat to $1 lower with top prices seen from $62 to $63 on a live basis.