Cattle Rally in First Gain in Week, on Tight Supply; Hogs Rise

Cattle futures climbed for the first time in more than a week on signs of tightening beef supplies. Hog prices also rose.

Japan will allow imports of U.S. beef from cattle as old as 30-months, up from 20 months, as early as Feb. 1, Health Minister Norihisa Tamura told reporters in Tokyo today. The Food Safety Commission recommended the change in October, saying it wouldn’t increase health risks. Cargill Inc. said last week that it will idle a beef-processing plant because of shrinking supplies of animals.

There’s been a “double confirmation of tight beef supplies,” Dennis Smith, an analyst at Archer Financial Services in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “We had confirmation from Cargill last week,” he said, followed by Japan’s move, acknowledging “how tight supplies are going to get this year.”

Cattle futures for April delivery rose 0.5 percent to settle at $1.30475 a pound at 1 p.m. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. That marks the first increase for the most-active contract since Jan. 14.

Japan was the biggest buyer of U.S. beef before an outbreak of mad cow disease in 2003. It lifted a two-year ban in 2005 that was imposed to safeguard against the brain-wasting ailment. Wholesale beef rose 0.5 percent to $1.9073 a pound as of midday, the biggest increase since Jan. 3, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show.

Feeder-cattle futures for March settlement increased 0.4 percent to $1.47 a pound on the CME.

Hog futures for April settlement added 0.2 percent to close at 88.275 cents a pound in Chicago.

-- With assistance from Aya Takada and Yasumasa Song in Tokyo. Editors: Thomas Galatola, Millie Munshi

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