Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures turned moderately higher on Wednesday as the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision not to curtail its bond-buying stimulus program sent the U.S. stock market up sharply, traders said.
Some live cattle futures investors said renewed confidence in the stock market bodes well for demand for U.S. goods, including high-end cuts of meat.
Firm wholesale beef prices helped CME live cattle recover from early-session losses.
U.S. Department of Agriculture data on Wednesday afternoon showed the wholesale choice beef price, or cutout, at $193.29 per hundredweight (cwt), up 28 cents from Tuesday. Select cuts rose 75 cents to $176.51 (all figures US$).
"We need to see the cutout and cash cattle prices stabilize to confirm that both markets have put in a bottom heading into the fall," a trader said.
Cash cattle bids in Texas and Kansas were at $121/cwt with sellers seeking $125 for their animals, feedlot sources said. Last week, cash cattle in Texas and Kansas traded at $123/cwt, and in Nebraska at $123.50.
Wednesday's futures and beef price advances may underpin cash cattle prices.
More cattle for sale in parts of the U.S. Plains and unprofitable packer margins could weigh on cash.
Estimated margins for U.S. beef packers on Wednesday were a negative $3.20 per head, compared with a negative $2 on Tuesday and a positive $2.35 a week ago.
Investors adjusted positions ahead of the USDA's monthly cattle-on-feed report to be released on Friday at 2 p.m. CT.
Analysts expected the upcoming report to show the number of cattle moved into U.S. feedlots last month declined to its lowest level in 17 years.
Buying of December and February futures could emerge in the days before the report on expectations that it will show a significant decline in placements, said Vetterkind Cattle brokerage president Troy Vetterkind.
CME October live cattle closed up 0.1 cent/lb., to 125.275 cents. December ended 0.3 cent higher, at 128.95 cents.
Feeder cattle futures at the CME drew support from the firm live cattle market and late-day technical buying.
September ended 0.55 cents/lb. higher at 157.15 cents while October settled at 158.3 cents, up 0.425 cent.
Hogs bounce back
CME hogs snapped back from session lows with support from fund buying and short-covering, analysts and traders said.
"Funds kept buying. That blew out the weak shorts," independent hog futures trader James Burns said.
Futures made headway despite mixed cash hog prices.
The average cash hog price Wednesday afternoon in the most-watched Iowa/Minnesota market fell $2.16/cwt to $94.25, but rose 96 cents in the eastern Midwest region, according to USDA.
While some packers paid up for supplies to accommodate this week's production, others focused on recouping lost margins by lowering cash hog bids.
HedgersEdge.com estimated margins for U.S. pork packers on Wednesday at a negative 40 cents per head, compared with a negative $2.80 on Tuesday and a positive $3.20 a week ago.
October hog futures were at a discount to CME's hog index at 95.33 cents, which encouraged buyers.
CME October hogs finished at 91.725 cents/lb., 0.75 cent higher, and December ended at 87.95 cents, up 0.425 cent.
-- Theopolis Waters
reports on livestock futures markets for Reuters from Chicago.