By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO, Dec 8 (Reuters)Benchmark live cattle futures LCG24 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange closed higher on Friday in a light short-covering bounce, but still ended the week down about 2%, anchored by sagging wholesale beef prices and rising supplies of market-ready cattle, traders said.

Most-active CME February live cattle LCG24 settled up 3.200 cents at 165.725 cents per pound, a day after falling to 162.400, the contract’s lowest in 14 months. Front-month December cattle LCZ3 ended Friday up 3.100 cents at 165.450 cents.

CME January feeder cattle FCF24 jumped 5.025 cents to settle at 215.300 cents per pound.

Live cattle futures LCc1 have plunged since reaching historic highs in mid-September. Managed commodity funds have aggressively cut their net long position, fueling the sell-off, amid worries about consumer demand for beef.

Managed funds’ net long totaled 26,889 contracts as of Dec. 5, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday, down from roughly 100,000 contracts in late September.

Wholesale beef prices softened throughout this week, depressing meat packers’ profit margins. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priced choice cuts of beef at $288.01 per hundredweight (cwt) on Friday afternoon, down $1.83 from Thursday and the lowest reading since early April. Select cuts fell 93 cents at $257.90 per cwt.

“The real problem is that packer margins remain negative. That, in turn, is weighing on cash (cattle) and futures prices,” said Sterling Smith, director of agricultural research at AgriSompo North America.

Hog futures ended higher on Friday, shrugging off pressure from weak cash hog prices. CME February lean hog futures LHG24 settled up 1.200 cents at 68.975 cents per pound.

The CME’s Lean Hog Index .IHX, a two-day weighted average of cash prices, fell to 69.12 cents per pound, the lowest reading since February 2021.

“Hog futures have held up remarkably well, given how low the cash price is,” Smith said.

Firmer wholesale pork prices lent support. The USDA priced pork carcasses on Friday afternoon at $85.67 per cwt, up $2.30 from Thursday.

(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Leslie Adler)

((Julie.ingwersen@thomsonreuters.com; 1-313-484-5283; Reuters Messaging: julie.ingwersen.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Source: Nasdaq

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