The cattle futures market looks bright.
By: Andrew P. Griffith, University of Tennessee
FED CATTLE: Fed cattle traded steady to $1 higher on a live basis compared to last week. Prices on a live basis were mainly $145 while dressed trade was not well developed at press. The 5-area weighted average prices thru Thursday were $145.13 live, up $0.97 from last week and $231.84 dressed, up $1.08 from a week ago. A year ago prices were $123.40 live and $195.80 dressed.
The strength in the futures market has cattle feeders pushing for higher prices this week. However, packers are holding out because the beef market is seasonally softening, and it is expected to do so through the heat of the summer.
The leverage has been shifting to packers for several weeks as the market ready supply of cattle has been seasonally increasing. However, feedlot managers are willing to take a few risks at this point and push for higher prices, because cattle marketings are fairly current and the year-over-year supply is rather tight. Feedlot marketings are current do to previously high prices pulling some cattle forward even when packers were slowing chain speeds to support cutout prices.
BEEF CUTOUT: At midday Friday, the Choice cutout was $229.94 down $1.05 from Thursday and down $3.38 from last Friday. The Select cutout was $221.16 down $0.73 from Thursday and down $1.58 from last Friday. The Choice Select spread was $8.78 compared to $10.58 a week ago.
Beef markets sizzled through the cold weather and it appears they are ready to fizzle during the summer heat. Choice and Select beef cutout prices showed signs of strength since setting records earlier in the year, but they were not able to match such prices during the time period when beef demand is traditionally its strongest.
Some late Father’s Day purchases likely helped keep beef prices supported immediately following Memorial Day. Similarly, it likely provided some support this week, but it will be difficult for packers to keep prices elevated with the heat of summer and seasonally increasing slaughter rates. It is not surprising beef prices could not outperform record prices. However, it is surprising the strength of Select beef relative to Choice beef.
The Choice Select spread normally widens during May and early June before narrowing during summer. However, the spread stagnated during that time period. Part of this is due to an increase in beef grading Choice or better while some of it is likely due to consumers trading down to lower quality but more affordable beef.
TENNESSEE AUCTIONS: On Tennessee auctions this week compared to a week ago steers and bulls were steady to $2 higher. Heifers were steady to $3 higher. Slaughter cows and bulls were steady to $2 higher. Average receipts per sale were 764 head on 12 sales compared to 590 head on 10 sales last week and 630 head on 10 sales last year.
OUTLOOK: The local cash feeder cattle market has showed signs of reaching a summer lull, but the uptrend in feeder cattle futures has allowed the cash market to continue marching forward. August through November feeder cattle futures have all exceeded the $200 per hundredweight mark which was largely thought of as a resistance point, but it appears feedlots are willing to pay up to fill the pens. When supplies of feeder cattle are tight, feedlots are very competitive in placing calves in the pens and cash and futures prices are reflective of this competitive nature. This competitive nature has resulted in calf and feeder cattle markets failure to follow normal seasonal tendencies which can increase the complexity of the marketing strategy for many producers.
There have been a number of producers that marketed calves earlier in the year that wish they had held those calves to heavier weights and capitalized on higher prices later in the year. However, it would have been difficult to have the foresight of such strength in the stocker calf and feeder cattle market. There is still potential for calf prices to break as the market heads into the heat of summer, but it is unlikely the feeder cattle market will break anytime in the next four or five months. Drought and a shortage of forage is one common factor with potential to cause prices to drop for lightweight calves. Fortunately, much of the state received significant rainfall this week which should alleviate some of the dry conditions being experienced as well as promote forage growth.
It would likely require a decimation of corn yields similar to 2012 to cause any significant decline in feeder cattle prices since cattle numbers are the tightest since 1951. Thus, the cattle price outlook heading into summer and fall months is very positive for sellers. The outlook for buyers is a little gloomier as the financial outlay for purchased cattle continues to rise. This may be a time for folks buying cattle to hedge those purchases to protect against further price increases and protect a little more of the margin.
TECHNICALLY SPEAKING: Based on Thursday’s closing prices, June closed at $139.50. Support is at $138.52 then $136.89. Resistance is at $140.14, then $141.77. The RSI is 60.42. August closed at $141.32. Support is at $140.41, then $138.91. Resistance is at $141.91, then $143.41. The RSI is 66.20. October closed at $144.90. Support is at $144.63, then $144.28. Resistance is at $145.14, then $145.15. The RSI is 65.14. August feeders closed at $199.82. Support is at $198.98, then $197.53. Resistance is at $200.43, then $201.88. The RSI is 76.77. November feeders closed at $199.93. Support is at $199.13, then $199.10. Resistance is at $199.94 then $199.95. The RSI is 77.89. January feeders closed at $195.38. Support is at $195.35, then $194.43. Resistance is at $195.39 then $195.40. The RSI is 78.85. Friday’s closing prices were as follows: Live/fed cattle – June $140.13 +0.63; August $141.30 -0.03; October $144.50 -0.40; Feeder cattle - August $200.53 +0.70; October $200.83 +0.30; November $200.48 +0.55; January $195.88 +0.50; July corn closed at $4.59 up $0.10 from Thursday.