Live cash prices stabilized this week and dressed prices once again held steady. In Texas and Kansas, live prices were at $125/cwt on Wednesday. There was limited cash trade in Nebraska and no trend was called but some cattle did move at $200/cwt on a dressed basis late in the week. A similar story for Western Cornbelt fed cattle with sparce sales at $125/cwt and $200 for live and dressed respectively. The five-area price was at $124.96/cwt on a live basis and at $197.63/cwt for dressed.
Feeder steers and heifers were $2-$3/cwt higher in Oklahoma City, while calves were called steady to $4/cwt higher. In Mississippi auction markets feeder steers and heifers were mixed on the week. Cull cows and bulls sold $1-$2/cwt higher.
Live cattle futures finished moderately higher again this week. As expected markets opened higher on Monday in the wake of the Cattle on Feed report (link). Early Monday news broke that Japan would relax their import restrictions on U.S. beef (allowing cattle 30 months of age and younger compared to the previous requirement of 20 month old cattle). This added to the bullish sentiment. The remainder of the week was dismal though and prices slid back. Sluggish wholesale beef prices continue to weigh on markets further upstream. Also, while the news out of Japan is helpful, Steve Meyer and Len Steiner point out that there are some strong signals that this will not automatically result in more beef sales to the country (it is worth a read, link). Improved cash markets across the U.S. helped push the nearby March feeder contract higher, but beyond that prices were mostly steady. Finally, Friday marked the release of the annual cattle inventory report. The total number of cattle and calves in the U.S. dropped 1.6% compared to last year. The number of beef cows were down 2.9% but more beef heifers were held back in 2012, up 1.8%. In Mississippi, the cattle herd shrunk 4.2% with beef cows holding steady. For more detail on this report visit this link.
Corn futures prices improved this. Dry weather in southern South America has the market concerned about Argentina’s corn crop. Late in the week the export sales report was better than most had expected, but it should be noted that corn exports are still lagging.
Wholesale boxed beef prices continued to march lower with Choice once again dropping at a faster pace than Select. Choice finished with a weekly average of $185.83/cwt, down $3.13, and Select finished at $180.68/cwt, down $2.03.