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U.S. livestock: Live cattle drop on technical selling

Chicago | Reuters — Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures declined for the fourth straight session on Friday, easing on technical selling and bets that cattle prices have likely reached a short-term peak, traders and analysts said.

Feeder cattle and lean hog futures were slightly higher, with feeders rebounding from a two-week low.

Most-active CME April live cattle settled down 0.525 cent at 124.85 cents/lb., bringing the contract’s weekly decline to about 2.2 per cent.

Some investors were liquidating positions in advance of a government Cattle on Feed report released after the close of futures trading on Friday in the wake of lower prices earlier this week in U.S. Plains cash cattle markets.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture in the report said 11.63 million cattle were on feed as of Feb. 1, above a Reuters poll for 11.575 million. About 2.068 million cattle were placed on feed last month, up from the average estimate for 1.989 million.

“We have lots of cattle on feed right now, and they will soon be ready for market,” Archer Financial Services broker Dennis Smith said. “There’s nothing bullish going on here.”

CME April feeder cattle settled up 0.425 cent at 148.5 cents/lb. Front-month March feeders finished unchanged at 146 cents.

CME April lean hogs were up 0.1 cent, to 71.375 cents/lb.

Hog prices were buoyed in part by weekly U.S. pork export sales of 40,350 tons — the largest such sales since April 2016, including relatively big volumes to Mexico, Japan and China, USDA data showed.

“We’ve been selling pork like crazy. It’s an impressive development to me,” Smith said of the exports.

— Michael Hirtzer reports on commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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