Chicago | Reuters — U.S. lean hog futures jumped more than four per cent on Thursday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly export sales report showed that China last week placed its largest order for U.S. pork since February, traders said.
The purchases are a signal that an outbreak of African swine fever in the world’s top hog producer and pork consumer is raising concerns of an eventual supply shortfall, potentially superseding trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
China in the week to Nov. 22 bought 3,348 tonnes of pork to be shipped this year, USDA said. Overall weekly U.S. pork sales totaled 34,000 tonnes for the 2018 and 2019 marketing years.
“We sold pork to China for both 2018 and 2019. It might be the first sign of the impact it (African swine fever) is having over there,” said Jim Gerlach, president of Indiana-based A/C Trading.
Chicago Mercantile Exchange February lean hog futures settled up 2.85 cents at 67.35 cents/lb. while front-month December rose 0.775 cent to end at 58.725 cents (all figures US$).
Traders also noted short-covering following a three-session slide in the February hog contract.
However, forecasts for a winter storm to hit the western Midwest this weekend may have capped rallies.
“This will delay slaughtering, which means it (extends) this big-supply period that we’re in,” said Rich Nelson of Allendale Inc.
CME live cattle and feeder cattle futures closed lower, hobbled by disappointing export data.
CME February live cattle futures settled down 0.275 cent at 120.275 cents/lb. and January feeder cattle ended down 1.725 cents at 145.975 cents.
USDA reported weekly export sales of U.S. beef for the 2018 marketing year at 9,063 tonnes, down 26 per cent from the previous week and the smallest total since July.
The looming winter storm and forecasts for a cold spell in its wake could be supportive for cattle futures, Nelson said, because it might hamper the ability of Plains cattle to put on weight.
— Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Chicago.