U.S. livestock futures closed lower Thursday as uncertainty over pork and beef demand after the Memorial Day holiday pressured prices.
U.S. lean hogs futures also fell, ending lower as concerns remain over how pork demand will shape up after the Memorial Day holiday.
June futures settled down 0.5 cent, or 0.6% at 87.8 cents a pound after trading as high as 88.575 cents a pound earlier in the day. July futures also traded lower at 87.27 cents a pound, down 0.12 cent or 0.2%.
Cash hog prices were reported flat to weaker on light buying interest Thursday. Pork processors have sufficient supplies for the week, according to livestock dealers and market managers. With all plants scheduled to close Monday for the holiday, pork processors are scheduling deliveries mainly for the second half of next week.
The terminal markets traded flat to $1 per hundred pounds lower with top prices from $61 to $62 on a live basis.
The latest Dow Jones Newswires pork packer margin index was plus $4.72 per head, compared with $2.32 per head the previous day.
The USDA's pork carcass composite value, a measure of wholesale prices, for Wednesday was $93.26 per hundred pounds, up 87 cents from the previous day.
Live cattle for June delivery settled 0.52 cent, or 0.5%, lower at $1.0402 per pound, while the August contract fell 0.65 cent, or 0.6%, to $1.0457 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Futures climbed earlier in the trading day, with the June contract reaching as high as $1.05 a pound, but could not maintain those gains.
The May futures contract for young cattle known as feeders settled 0.2% higher at $1.2495 a pound in its last day of trading. The August contract fell 1.5 cents, or 1.2%, to $1.2302 a pound as futures for corn, which is used for feed, showed some strength.
Cattle futures rose Wednesday, bucking sharp declines over the last month. Yet Dan Vaught, president of Vaught Futures Insights, said the jump was likely too large, helping to fuel Thursday's declines.
Further pressure is coming from uncertainty over beef demand now that packers are done filling orders for the Memorial Day holiday. The season for outdoor grilling has gotten off to a late start due to cold, wet spring in many parts of the country. The focus now turns to whether weak demand will carry into the upcoming period between Memorial Day and the Independence Day holiday, and what kind of export demand U.S. producers will see ahead, said John Ginzel, an analyst with Linn Group.
"We are now into the post-Memorial Day demand period," he said.
Wholesale beef prices flattened Thursday, after increasing earlier in the week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture boxed beef prices at midday were near flat with choice off 10 cents at $178.93 per hundred pounds, and select down 8 cents at $173.10 on 111 total loads.
As for cash cattle markets, no additional trading was reported Thursday. Beef processors appear to have enough animals for next week's holiday-shortened slaughter schedules after Tuesday's moderately active sales at lower prices.
The latest HedgersEdge packer margin index was plus $82.50 a head, compared with the previous day's estimate of plus $66.05 a head. This is an estimate of packer returns on cattle slaughtered and processed expressed in the form of an index. Last week's average for the index was plus $3.65.
Cattle owners are hopeful that stronger packer margins will support cash prices next week. Yet, the volume of supermarket sales over the holiday weekend could determine the direction wholesale beef prices take, and how aggressively processors bid for cattle, analysts said.