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Cattle Futures Dip to Lure Cash Buyers

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12/30/2017 | 12:57am CEST

By Doug Cameron

U.S. cattle futures ended the final trading session of 2017 with modest losses after hitting a seven-week high driven by robust demand and tight supplies.

The rally that started Tuesday set up a standoff between sellers holding out for higher cash prices and packers keen to replenish stocks ahead of extended holiday plant closures.

The expiring December live cattle contract shed 1.2% to close at $1.23 a pound, shy of the $1.25 that many buyers were seeking as bids hovered around $1.19.

The February contract, the most heavily traded in the complex, lost 0.6% to end at $1.2155. Cattle futures gained around 3% during 2017.

Most lean hog contracts also ended narrowly lower, though the front-month February contract gained 0.3% to end at 71.775 cents a pound.

The week's trading vanquished the broadly bearish tone of last week's government supply and demand reports. Analysts were split on the impact of cold weather in the Midwest, which crimps animal weights but can also limit consumer buying.

Boxed-beef prices moved slightly higher to support futures. But even with market reports of supermarket interest, cash buyers have remained on the sidelines awaiting the dip in contract values that finally arrived late Friday.

Write to Doug Cameron at doug.cameron@wsj.com

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