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CME update: cattle futures sink as coronavirus measures upend markets

06 April 2020

US cattle futures fell on Friday 3 April as measures to control to COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and restaurants and sent US unemployment rates skyrocketing.

According to reporting from Reuters, wholesale beef and cash feedlot cattle prices plunged as restaurants and food service companies, a major purchaser of US beef, remained closed across the country.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle notched their steepest weekly percentage drop in nearly two years.

The US economy lost 701,000 jobs in March, abruptly ending a historic 113 straight months of employment growth.

More than 1 million people have been reported infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and more than 54,000 have died, including more than 6,000 Americans, according to a Reuters tally.

"Everybody is just fear, fear, fear right now," said Jeff French, analyst with Top Third Ag Marketing.

"Packers are starting to slow the kill chain and we cannot back up animals right now ... The packers just have nowhere to go with the meat."

April live cattle were down the 4.5-cent limit at 88.325 cents per pound, while actively traded June futures finished at 80.850 cents, down 2.225 cents and the lowest for a June contract in 11 years.

May feeder cattle futures ended at 111.650 cents a pound, one of five contracts that ended down the expanded daily limit of 6.75 cents.

The trading limits for all three commodities will remain at their expanded levels of 4.5 cents on Monday 6 April for live cattle and 6.75 cents for feeders.

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