The story seems to remain constant. Yet another week of slow cash cattle trade in the major feeding regions. Cattle in the Southern Plains was light with a few sales at $123/cwt. In Nebraska, live cattle were called at $124/cwt; dressed cattle were called at $198/cwt. Feeder steers over 750 pounds in Oklahoma City were steady to $2/cwt; those lower than 750 pounds were $1-$2/cwt higher; feeder heifers were called steady to $2/cwt higher. Calves in OKC were $3-$6/cwt higher. Feeder steers and heifers sold $2-$8 higher in Mississippi markets. Mississippi cull cows and bulls were $2-$5/cwt higher.
Live cattle futures were mostly steady – nearby contracts were lower while more distant months were slightly higher. The weak cash market and depressed boxed beef prices for most of the new year appear to have finally overwhelmed the futures market. Good news came late in the week as the January jobs report revealed another month of growth. Total jobs added during January came in at 243,000, above the 150,000 that were expected, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3% from 8.5% in December.
Nearby feeder cattle futures were lower on the front month (March) but higher for all the remaining contract. The lower nearby contract was under pressure from the lower fed futures and higher corn, while the market continues to expect the supply side of the feeder cattle equation to keep prices up.
Nearby corn futures were modestly higher but the most deferred current crop contract (September) ended the week up 12.5 cents per bushel. Improvements in soybeans and exports along with late week weakness in the dollar provided the support.
Wholesale beef prices were slightly lower on the week. The Choice price moved higher through Wednesday before turning lower and ending the week at $183.34/cwt, down $0.92 from last week. Select ended the week at $178.41/cwt, down $0.60.