U.S. lean hog futures were lower Friday, pressured by another broad sell off in the commodity sectors and strength in the dollar.
May lean hogs at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange were off 1.62 cents, or 1.6%, at $1.0250 a pound. June hog futures, the most active contract, was last down 2.12 cents, or 2.1%, at $1.0050 a pound.
A downgrade by Moody's Investor Services of Ireland's currency bond rating amid concerns that the country's fiscal position could further weaken pressured the euro, contributing to a stronger dollar.
In addition, Goldman Sachs issued a note to its clients overnight maintaining a near-term negative stance on commodities. The investment firm raised several of its one-year prices estimates, however, including oil and corn. Investors sought safety in less risky markets, taking money out of livestock futures, analysts said.
The summer month hog contracts have solid support around 98 to 99 cents a pound but see resistance from $1.02 to $1.03, said Steve Wagner, analyst with Country Hedging. The market may swing back and forth within that range for a while, he said.
While world demand for pork remains strong and global supplies have tightened due in large part to record high feed costs, there are some concerns about domestic demand holding up. Near-record high wholesale prices for pork may ration seasonal demand growth for grilling cuts in coming weeks, which could weigh on the nearby futures contracts.
Cheap chicken prices could drive more sales volume at the grocery stores, said Rich Nelson, director of research with Allendale Inc. Therefore, chicken could displace pork or beef in some meal choices.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported its pork carcass composite value Thursday off $0.31 per hundred pounds at $96.00. For the week through Thursday, wholesale pork prices were up $1.40, or 1.5%. Prices have been approaching the all-time high of $96.74, hit on Aug. 24, 2010.
Predictions for the cash hog markets Friday were mostly flat with a few weaker bids seen possible as packers may try to save a little money on hogs and add to their thin margins. Some processors may further reduce slaughter schedules next week. In addition, two plants are scheduled to be closed on Good Friday and nine or 10 are expected to be closed on April 25 in observance of the Easter holiday.
Seasonally tightened supplies of slaughter-ready animals and declining carcass weights may limit downside risk for cash prices, however, analysts and livestock dealers said. Some processors were bidding more aggressively on Thursday for hogs on a live weight basis versus dressed prices. The USDA reported more head traded on a live basis than dressed in the negotiated cash markets. Normally, the largest volume is in the dressed markets. Analysts said the growth in live sales may indicate that some plants could be a bit snug on supplies for next week.
Longer-term expectations for the cash markets to extend the firming trend through May could provide underlying support for futures, analysts said.
The terminal markets were expected to trade generally flat in light volume tests with top prices seen at mostly $64 per hundred pounds on a live basis.