Feb 3 (Reuters) - CME live cattle were expected to open down slightly on Monday in response to last week’s lower cash prices, traders and analysts said.
* They also cited the steep drop in wholesale beef prices on Friday.
* Investors viewed Friday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture annual cattle inventory report as neutral for CME live cattle futures on Monday.
* Friday’s report showed the U.S. cattle population dropped to a 63-year low, the result of years of drought that took its toll on feed costs in the first half of 2013, analysts said in response to a government yearly cattle report on Friday.
* But they said the data suggests that ranchers held back breeding stock to rebuild the herd as corn prices came down during the last six months of 2013.
* More wintry weather is moving across the Midwest. Frigid temperatures could slowdown cattle weight gains and snow-packed roads may delay the delivery of livestock to packing plants.
LIVE CATTLE - Called 0.200 cent to 0.300 cent per lb lower.
* Slumping wholesale beef prices eroded margins for processors which forced them to lower cash cattle bids, traders said.
* CME live cattle futures’ discount to cash prices could limit potential market losses, they said.
* Last week, cattle in Texas and Kansas moved at mostly $145 per hundredweight (cwt), down $2 from the week before, feedlot sources said. Cash cattle in Nebraska fell $4 to $146, they said.
* Friday afternoon’s wholesale choice beef price was $223.49 per cwt, $7.26 lower than on Thursday, and select cuts dropped $4.94 to $224.85 in light demand and low volume sales, according to USDA.
* Friday was the first time choice cuts sold at a discount to select since March 22, 2013, based on USDA data.
FEEDER CATTLE - Seen steady to down 0.300 cent per lb.
* March CME feeder cattle futures may draw support from its discount to the exchange’s feeder cattle index at 171.12 cents.
* Possible live cattle market weakness and firm corn prices are seen pressuring CME feeder cattle contracts.
* LEAN HOGS - Called up 0.100 to 0.200 cent per lb.
* Friday’s firm cash prices could stir short-covering, which could underpin CME hog futures, traders said.
* While some packers have near-term supply needs met, others need hogs for the rest of this week’s production, a trader said.
* News on Friday that Russia may again resume U.S. pork imports could continue to support nearby hog futures, an analyst said.
* Russia plans to end a ban on imports of some U.S. meat starting with turkey in mid-February and pork by March, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday, citing its veterinary regulator.
* Anticipation of reduced hog production this summer due the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which is fatal to baby pigs, spreading on U.S. hog farms and in Canada could underpin June and July CME hog contracts, traders and analysts said. (Reporting by Theopolis Waters in Chicago; Editing by Bernadette Baum)