December 27, 2018 / 9:21 PM / 3 months ago

LIVESTOCK-Cattle jump to contract highs as winter storm hits U.S. Plains

    By Michael Hirtzer
    CHICAGO, Dec 27 (Reuters) - U.S. cattle futures climbed to
life-of-contract highs on Thursday as a storm brought
blizzard-like conditions to much of the Plains cattle belt,
stoking expectations of higher prices for the animals in cash
markets, traders said.
    Heavy snow could impede transportation of cattle to market
in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and elsewhere while declining
temperatures were likely to stress animals and slow the rate of
weight gain.
    The National Weather Service warned that travel was
hazardous, with as much as 10 inches (25 cm) of snow falling in
some states.             
    "The storm coming here is giving a boost to the cash
expectations," one U.S. livestock futures trader said of cattle.
    One broker predicted beef packers would have to pay higher
prices for cattle this week.
    In the Chicago Mercantile Exchange futures market, February
live cattle         ended up 1.200 cents at 123.950 cents per
pound, below the lifetime peak of 124.900 cents notched earlier
in the session. On a continuous chart reflecting the thinly
traded December contact       , cattle prices jumped to the
highest since April 30.
    CME January feeder cattle futures         finished up 0.900
cent to 149.00 cents per pound, highest since Nov. 27.
    Lean hog futures         were mixed, with the most-active
February contract         settling 0.200 cent higher at 60.575
cents while most other hog contracts were narrowly lower.
    Bargain buying helped to limit losses in hogs, after prices
on Wednesday dipped to six-week lows.
    Livestock traders have struggled to balance abundant U.S.
hog supplies with expectations that exports of American pork to
China could spike next year. 
    China may boost pork imports as the African swine fever
virus spreads, forcing hog producers to cull herds in the top
global hog producing and pork consuming country.
    "For hogs, I wouldn't want to bet on that pushing further
down, particularly if we get Chinese demand because of any
African swine fever issues," said Summit Commodities analyst
Tomm Pfitzenmaier.
    China loosened the rules on the transportation of breeder
pigs and piglets in provinces that are affected by the African
swine fever, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said
on its website.
    The move, which came after Beijing reported more than 90
cases of the highly contagious disease since August, was put in
place to ensure pig production and pork supplies.             
    Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Agriculture attache said
Hong Kong officials were on alert that the disease could spread
over the border from China.             

 (Additional reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; Editing
by Tom Brown)
  
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