June 24, 2020 / 9:54 PM / 13 days ago

LIVESTOCK-U.S. cattle, hog futures weaken on big supplies, economic jitters

CHICAGO, June 24 (Reuters) - U.S. cattle futures eased on Wednesday and hog futures were mostly lower on ample livestock supplies and concerns about rising coronavirus infections and their negative impact on the economy.

Wall Street’s three major indexes tumbled on Wednesday and crude oil plunged more than 5% as a surge in U.S. coronavirus cases intensified fears of another round of government lockdowns and worsening economic damage.

Meatpackers, meanwhile, are still working to whittle down excess supplies that arose when numerous packing plants were temporarily closed due to coronavirus outbreaks among workers.

A quarterly U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report due for release on Thursday is expected to show a 3.7% expansion of the U.S. hog herd in the March-to-May quarter.

Livestock markets slumped as rising infection rates were seen slowing the reopening of restaurants and food service businesses, key outlets for items like bacon and high-end cuts of beef.

“We have a decent-sized backlog of cattle to work through that’s keeping a lid on things, and there’s no real excitement in the boxed beef market,” said Matthew Wiegand, a broker with FuturesOne. “Hog-wise, the concern is that we still have too many ready hogs.”

Chicago Mercantile Exchange July lean hogs fell to within 0.100 cent of a contract low posted on Monday and settled 0.975 cent lower at 45.925 cents per pound. Actively traded August hogs dropped 1.250 cents to 51.250 cents per pound.

August live cattle were 0.850 cent lower at 96.350 cents per pound and August feeder cattle shed 0.325 cent to close at 132.875 cents per pound.

Wholesale boxed beef prices BEEF-US-CH BEEF-US-SE fell for a second straight day, nearing pre-pandemic levels following a spike to record highs. Pork prices PRK-MAN-CARCS bounced after a month-long slide from historic highs.

Meatpackers are facing heightened scrutiny after the unprecedented meat price surges.

Reporting by Karl Plume; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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