Cattle Prices Drop on Signs of Slowing Beef Demand; Hogs Steady

Cattle futures declined for the second straight day on speculation that higher prices for U.S. beef are slowing consumer purchases of the meat. Hog prices were little changed.

Wholesale beef rose 0.1 percent to $1.8357 a pound as of midday, a one-week high, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. All fresh retail-beef prices may average $4.85 a pound this year, up 4 percent from 2012, according to CattleFax, a Centennial, Colorado-based researcher.

“The cattle market has had a problem,” Mark Schultz, the chief analyst at Northstar Commodity Investment Co. in Minneapolis, said in a telephone interview. “It just has a market that has been so high, and price-wise, we just don’t have demand.”

Cattle futures for April delivery fell 0.8 percent to $1.28875 a pound at 11:54 a.m. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Through yesterday, the price was down 1.8 percent this year.

Meatpackers processed 239,000 head of cattle in the first two days of this week, down 2 percent from a year earlier, USDA figures show. Packers are probably losing $60 to $75 a head, according to Schultz.

Feeder-cattle futures for March settlement declined 1.7 percent to $1.40825 a pound. A close at that price would be the ninth straight decline.

Hog futures for April settlement slid less than 0.1 percent to 85.975 cents a pound on the CME. Prices were up 0.3 percent this year through yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Campbell in Chicago at ecampbell14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net

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