May through August hog futures climbed amid support from a firm outlook for cash and wholesale pork prices in the weeks ahead while the late 2011 and 2012 contracts declined.
April hogs expired at 93.92 cents a pound, off 0.02 cent on the day. Lightly traded May futures were up 0.37c, or 0.4%, at $1.0337. June hogs, the most active contract, closed up 0.75 cent, or 0.7%, at $1.0220.
May futures hit a new contract high at $1.0375 and closed at its highest-ever level. June and most of the other 2011 contracts hit six-day highs. The summer months held most of their gains. October and December sold off and closed lower, pressured by hedge selling after those months approached their respective contract highs hit earlier in the month.
Support for hog futures is coming from strength in cash prices and expectations for a seasonal advance to extend the upward trend in the weeks ahead, said Don Roose, analyst with U.S. Commodities.
There hasn't been much pork demand destruction from rising wholesale prices, and the market is entering a better demand period with improving weather conditions, said Alton Kalo, analyst with Steiner Consulting Group. Grocers have been buying on a hand-to-mouth or as-needed basis, and they have light inventories. Supplies remain tight, so when the buyers seek additional pork, prices move up further, he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's pork carcass composite value Wednesday was up $0.28 per hundred pounds at $96.31, nearly an eight-month high and drawing close to the all-time high of $96.74 set on Aug. 24, 2010.
Cash prices Thursday were expected to be mainly flat, but some firmer quotes might occur Friday or Monday due to tighter slaughter-ready hog supplies seen ahead, said livestock dealers and market managers.
Buying interest from packers may diminish by the middle of next week since two plants are scheduled to be closed on Good Friday and possibly as many as 10 plants on Monday, April 25, in observance of the Easter holiday.
The terminal markets traded mixed, from $1 per hundred pounds higher to $1 lower, with tops at $64 on a live basis.