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CME update: live cattle futures stabilise after rally

20 July 2020

US live cattle futures closed steady to firm on 17 July, evening out after a two-session rally that was attributed to speculative buying.

Reuters reports that the previous rally was also fuelled by signs that meat packers may have processed the oversupply of market-ready cattle from earlier in 2020.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) August live cattle futures settled unchanged at 103.275 cents per pound and October live cattle rose 0.275 cent to 106.875 cents. For the week, the CME August contract rose 3 percent, posting its fifth consecutive weekly advance.

"We're getting overbought," said Matt Wiegand, commodity broker for FuturesOne.

CME August feeder cattle futures settled up 0.100 cent on Friday at 142.700 cents per pound, finishing the week up 5 percent.

Cattle futures rose this week as cattle traded in the cash market at prices that were steady to higher compared with last week. Some traders view the trend as a sign that meat packers have worked through a backlog of market-ready cattle created this spring, when numerous slaughterhouses had to close temporarily after the coronavirus sickened workers.

"We are getting closer to being current," Wiegand said, although he noted that wholesale beef prices have yet to rally, due in part to a seasonal mid-summer slide in consumer demand.

Prices for choice cuts of boxed beef on 17 July afternoon fell $0.33 to $200.47 per cwt and select cuts fell $0.99 to $190.31 per cwt, according to the USDA.

"The concern going forward is, we pushed packing plant workforces hard to catch up. They may need to slow down a little bit to take a breather and pull back for maintenance," Wiegand said.

Uncertainty about beef demand from the restaurant and food service sector hangs over the market, capping rallies, as the United States struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.

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