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Cattle Prices Decline on Signs of Slack U.S. Beef Demand

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Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Cattle prices fell the most since November on signs of slack demand for beef. Hog futures also declined.

Wholesale beef fell yesterday to a three-week low, government data show. Meatpackers processed 380,000 cattle in the first three days of this week, up 0.3 percent from a year earlier, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. Processors are losing $45 a head, Mark Schultz, the chief analyst at Northstar Commodity Investment Co. in Minneapolis, said in a telephone interview.

“Demand is still weak,” Dick Quiter, an account executive at McFarland Commodities LLC in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “It’s kind of a snowballing situation. Cattle numbers are down, but demand is down proportionally, and packers are losing money. That adds up to a lower market.”

Cattle futures for April delivery retreated 1.3 percent to settle at $1.327 a pound at 1 p.m. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, marking the biggest slide since Nov. 30.

Yesterday, wholesale beef declined 0.3 percent to $1.9346 a pound, the lowest since Dec. 21. Prices rose 0.2 percent to $1.9378 a pound as of midday.

Feeder-cattle futures for March settlement fell 1.4 percent to close at $1.48225 a pound in Chicago. The price has dropped for eight straight sessions, the longest slump since September 2009.

Hog futures for April settlement declined 0.2 percent to 87.425 cents a pound.

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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