CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Persistent robust pork business will likely ignite Chicago Mercantile Exchange hogs gains at the start Friday.

Wholesale pork prices Thursday leaped another $2.27 per hundredweight, which widened pork packer margins. Generally steady-to-firm cash hog price calls may also inspire those who are banking on futures advances.

Thursday's U.S. Department of Agriculture pork and ham monthly cold storage outcomes were deemed mildly supportive for lean hogs because both were quoted at their lowest levels in three years.

Nonetheless, a few floor traders are still suspicious of front-months' bearish price premiums compared to CME's hog index, which might stir sporadic selling into upticks.

And some measure of market volatility is expected as participants square positions before the weekend.

Technical charts indicate June and July hogs hovering over 85.69-cents and 85.77 10-day moving average levels of support.

CME pork bellies should climb sharply on potential short-covering and Thursday's $10 per hundredweight fresh belly price hike to $120.

A belly market analyst had a mixed reaction to USDA's monthly belly storage result Thursday.

The outcome was more than expected, which at first blush is somewhat negative for CME belly futures, the analyst said. By the same token, he said, the result was a three-year low that could be viewed as rather friendly.

Cattle Complex

Live cattle at the exchange could start the morning mostly firm as traders digest this week's cash cattle sales.

Front-end cattle contracts were at bullish price discounts to cash cattle Thursday that overall moved from $99 to $100.50 per hundredweight. Fed cattle last week primarily sold for $98 to $100 last week.

However, market choppiness is probable fanned by position squaring ahead of the weekend and maneuvering before the U.S. government's monthly cattle-on-feed report Friday at 3 p.m. EDT.

The following are analysts' averages and range of estimates in percentages of a year ago for the upcoming data:

Average Range of estimates of estimates On-feed in April 97.1 96.3-98.6 Placed in March 106.6 104.3-111.0 Marketed in March 104.9 101.7-106.1

Other live cattle fundamentals include wholesale beef demand that has recently become rather shaky while packer margins remained solid.

The federal government's Thursday evening boxed beef price data, which reflects wholesale beef values, showed choice cuts down $0.27 per hundredweight, but select items increased $0.41.

Operating margin index for beef packers for Thursday was plus $46.25 per head, compared with plus $45.55 Wednesday, as calculated by

No live cattle deliveries were reported Thursday by CME against the spot-April contract that will expire on April 30.

Pit-traded CME feeder cattle unevenness is expected featuring traders settling their business accounts before the weekend while anticipating the release of USDA's monthly cattle figures.

Those in the feeder cattle pit will also take their cue from movement in the neighboring live cattle sector.

(To access the daily livestock market data recap report, keyword search for "Livestock Market Fundamental Data Recap.")

-By Theopolis Waters, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-347-4965;