March 24, 2017 / 8:51 PM / 7 months ago

U.S. feedlot cattle placements dip for first time in 4 months

    * February placements down 1.0 pct vs year ago
    * March 1 feedlot cattle at 100.0 pct of year ago
    * Marketings in February up 4.0 pct vs year ago
    * Report called neutral for CME live cattle futures

    By Theopolis Waters
    CHICAGO, March 24 (Reuters) - U.S. cattle ranchers in
February placed 1 percent fewer cattle into feedlots than a year
ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on Friday. It
was the first such decrease since October and nearly matched
analysts' average estimates.
    Analysts attributed last month's slippage in part to one
fewer workday in February than in the year-ago month, which was
a leap year.
    Placements would have fallen even more, they said, had it
not been for higher cattle prices and cheaper calves for
fattening, which improved feedlot profits.
    Cattle that entered feedlots in February could start coming
to market around late summer, possibly resulting in
third-quarter slaughter steer prices of $108 to $111 per cwt,
said Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information
Center.
    USDA's report showed February placements at 1.694 million
head. That was down 1 percent from 1.710 million last year and
almost matched the average forecast of 1.691 million.
    The government put the feedlot cattle supply as of March 1
at 10.772 million head, up marginally from 10.770 million a year
ago. Analysts, on average, forecasted a 0.1 percent increase.
    The government said the number of cattle sold to packers, or
marketings, grew 4 percent in February from a year ago, to 1.648
million head. 
    Analysts had projected a 3.3 percent rise from 1.591 million
last year.  
    Robb called Friday's report neutral because it was nearly in
line with forecasts. He said the survey's weight data does not
appear to show a "bulge" or more animals coming to market than
some analysts had expected.
    While not a surprise, the report was significant because it
lined up with expectations, Robb said.
    Analysts considered the report neutral for CME live cattle
futures        on Monday, saying trading will likely focus on
near-term market fundamentals.
    "The real driver in the market come Monday will be what
cattle and wholesale beef prices do from here," said U.S.
Commodities President Don Roose.    

 (Editing by Matthew Lewis)
  

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