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

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.

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