Cash cattle sold mostly steady this week. The five-area live and dressed price stood at $124.81/cwt and $199.06/cwt on Friday, respectively up 36 cents/cwt and down 79 cents/cwt. These are up compared to last year when live and dressed prices were at $121.90 and $194.78. In the Southern Plains live prices were at $124/cwt on Friday. In Nebraska, live sales were at $125/cwt, while dressed cattle in the Western Cornbelt were at $198-$200/cwt.
Feeder and stocker cattle in Oklahoma City did not trade this week due to the Memorial Day holiday. In Mississippi auction markets feeder steers were called steady and feeder heifers were called $2-$8/cwt higher. Cull cows were steady and bulls were mixed.
Live cattle futures finally bucked the general lower movement and finished the week higher. Prices worked higher Tuesday and Wednesday (markets were closed Monday for the holiday), led by higher boxed beef prices and a rather significant discount for futures compared to cash prices (i.e., live cattle basis is quite positive). A lack of cash cattle trade through Thursday had futures nervous with cash bids and asks about $4/cwt apart. Feeders held strong and some trade took place around $124-$125/cwt on Friday, which pushed futures prices higher.
In a bit of positive news, the May Thompson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment index registered 84.5. This was higher than the expected 83.7 and much higher than the previous month’s index value of 76.4. In fact, this is the highest sentiment index number since July 2007. On the opposite side of the news front, consumer spending dropped in April by 0.2%. Typically a drop in spending is viewed with a bearish tone, but many analyst point out that a large component of consumer’s budgets, gasoline, was lower during the month. Still, consumers appear to have pocketed those savings for a rainy day.
Corn futures finished higher on the new crop contracts. Rains across the Midwest left planters in the shop. Prevented planting dates have passed for much of the deep south, and while calendar days are still available in the Midwest these are fast approaching. If acres are not covered before these dates they could switch (likely to cotton in the south and beans in the Midwest). Some are projecting two to three million corn acres are in jeopardy. Collectively, this helped prop up new crop prices.
Wholesale boxed beef prices fell off their lofty perch as record setting prices for Choice beef began to cool following the Memorial Day weekend. In spite of the decline, Choice prices remain at elevated levels. Choice finished with a weekly average of $208.32/cwt, down $2.15, and Select finished at $189.14/cwt, down $2.97.