U.S. lean hogs closed narrowly mixed Wednesday after rallying from multi-week lows hit earlier as short-position profit taking and spillover from gains in cattle futures provided support.
April, the front month and most-actively traded hog contract at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange bounced back from a fresh five-week low to close up 0.15 cent, or 0.2%, at 88.25 cents a pound. June hit nearly a five-week low before it too rallied, ending down just 0.12 cent at 99.80 cents.
The rebound off the session's lows also brought in some investor buying after prices had tumbled the previous five sessions. From the close of April 22 to Wednesday's low, most-active April hogs had fallen nearly 5.0 cents, or 5.4%.
Traders holding short positions since early last week were looking at turning a profit of $1,500 to $2,000 per contract, so they lifted those and took the money to the bank, a broker said.
In addition, the recent declines had narrowed the premiums held in futures prices over current cash quotes to levels that traders were more comfortable with, so some began buying futures to establish new positions, another broker said.
There was some talk among traders about the possibility of cash prices stabilizing soon since processors' margins have widened, said Tom Cawthorne, vice president and hog futures trader for R.J. O'Brien.
Meanwhile, rising fuel and food prices overall could temper demand for some meat cuts this summer as shoppers strive to stretch their food dollars, analysts said. That could cause some cash-strapped consumers to buy more of the cheaper cuts, ground meat items or chicken and fewer steaks, chops or specialty type sausages that tend to carry higher retail price points.
Cash hog prices have been trending weaker in recent days along with wholesale pork prices, but the longer-term outlook for both segments is stronger into the spring and summer. At the close, June futures carried a premium of 11.55 cents to April, coinciding with a seasonal rally and tighter hog supplies during the period.