Lean hog futures erode as US-China trade tensions persist

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) lean hog futures drifted lower on Wednesday (22 May) and touched a one-week low as the market was pressured by concerns that the US-China trade war is far from resolution.
calendar icon 23 May 2019
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Traders did not expect any significant Chinese buying of US pork in weekly export sales released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) early on Thursday (23 May).

Trade negotiations between the United States and China, the world's largest hog and pork market, stalled last month and no further talks have been scheduled, Reuters reports.

China is expected to increase pork imports this year as its domestic hog herd has been ravaged by the deadly African swine fever. Steep duties on US imports imposed by Beijing last year as part of a tit-for-tat tariff battle remain in place.

CME June lean hog futures closed 0.450 cent lower at 89.650 cents per pound while actively traded July hogs ended down 0.325 cent at 91.050 cents.

"Right now we have some disappointment over no US-China trade deal overhanging the market along with no Chinese buying likely for a few more weeks," said Rich Nelson, chief strategist with Allendale Inc.

Weak wholesale pork and cash hog prices also offered little support to futures, he said, adding the market is looking ahead to a possible seasonal tightening of hog supplies later in June.

After two days of higher prices, the wholesale pork carcass cutout value fell $2.24 to $84.83 per cwt on Wednesday (22 May), down $1.98 from a week ago.

Cash hog prices in the closely watched Iowa and southern Minnesota market fell $1.64 on Wednesday.

CME live cattle futures also declined as weakening cash cattle prices weighed on the market. Feeder cattle futures dropped along with live cattle, weighed down by rising corn feed costs.

June live cattle fell 0.200 cent to 110.650 cents per pound, while actively traded August was down 0.325 cent at 107.950 cents.

August feeder cattle finished down 0.400 cent at 142.600 cents per pound and September feeders fell 0.300 to 143.875 cents.

After the close, the USDA reported a sharp drop in beef stocks in cold storage as of 30 April, while pork belly stocks rose.

Traders are looking ahead to the USDA's monthly cattle on feed report on Friday. Analysts polled by Reuters expect April placements to rise 13 percent from a year ago and total 1 May on-feed supplies up 2.9 percent.

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