Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle futures declined on Friday for a fourth straight session as traders braced for a monthly U.S. government report that was expected to show increased placements of cattle into feedlots during February compared to a year earlier.

CME April live cattle futures (LHJ24) settled down 0.875 cent at 187.500 cents per pound, while benchmark June cattle (LCM24) closed down 1.600 cents at 182.900 cents. May feeder cattle (FCK24) tumbled 4.300 cents to close at 253.775 cents per pound.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cattle on Feed report, released soon after Friday’s CME close, confirmed an even larger rise in cattle placements than analysts expected. The USDA reported February feedlot placements at 1.890 million head of cattle, up 10% from a year ago and above a range of pre-report estimates.

Noting that February had an extra “leap year” day compared to a year ago, some analysts also attributed the increase to brutal wintry weather in January could have spurred an increase in catch-up placements in February.

The USDA reported the total number of cattle on feed as of March 1 at 11.838 million heat, up 1% from a year earlier and roughly in line with expectations.

Aside from the USDA report, CME live cattle futures were pressured as wholesale beef prices cooled. The USDA reported the choice boxed beef cutout on Friday afternoon at $310.72 per hundredweight (cwt), down $3.01 from Thursday’s near seven-month high.

Rising average cattle weights added pressure.

“Fed cattle weights have made a big U-turn and are running above a year ago. That is weighing on the market,” said Altin Kalo, agricultural economist for Steiner Consulting.

Traders shrugged off news that National Beef Packing Company, one of four major U.S. beef processors, suspended production for a second day at its Liberal, Kansas, plant after a fire. Meat-packers should be able to make up for lost production in the coming days, they said.

CME lean hog futures closed mostly higher. Benchmark June hogs (LHM24) settled up 0.400 cent at 99.700 cents per pound, consolidating after a three-session slide. Front-month April hogs (LHJ24) ended down 0.325 cent at 84.575 cents.

The USDA priced the pork carcass cutout late Friday at $94.37 per cwt, up $2.29 from Thursday.



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