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LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS : Top Stories of the Day

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01/11/2019 | 05:32pm EDT


Ham Prices May Recover After Steep Drop Last Year -- Market Talk

09:25 ET - The average price for wholesale ham in the US, 46 cents per pound, is 21% lower than at the same time last year, which is largely in reaction to the retaliatory 20% tariff levied on US pork by Mexico in 2018, according to Steiner Consulting. However, this trend of dropping prices, which has coincided with rising exports, may soon end -- as a USMCA trade agreement will likely result in Mexico dropping the tariff and China's battle with African Swine fever will likely push them to buy more pork imports. "We are a little more bullish for price in 2019," says Altin Kalo of Steiner Consulting. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com, @kirkmaltais)

Shutdown Hurting Food Stamp Business for Grocers -- Market Talk

12:22 ET - The federal shutdown has left grocers unable to renew their food stamp licenses and unable to acquire new ones, according to the National Grocers Association. "The partial government shutdown has had serious effects on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the independent grocery industry," the trade group wrote to members. The government instructed states to load food stamp benefits to participants by Jan. 20, but currently won't put additional cash loaded on cards next month. "The government shutdown is having significant impact on your stores and the customers you serve," wrote Independent Grocers Alliance CEO John Ross to members. (heather.haddon@wsj.com; @heatherhaddon)


Food Prices Rise, But Lower Gas Costs Offers Relief -- Market Talk

08:43 ET - Food prices increased a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in December from November, according to the Labor Department's consumer-price index. That was the strongest month-over-month increase since May 2014. Still, American consumers got relief from higher food costs in the form of a sharp 7.5% drop in gasoline prices last month, the biggest monthly decrease since February 2016. Overall consumer prices declined 0.1% in December. (harriet.torry@wsj.com; @HarrietTorry)

AB Foods Hoping for a Good Primark Christmas -- Market Talk

1555 GMT - Investors in Associated British Foods will be hoping that Primark had a good Christmas when the food producer and fashion retailer reports first-quarter trading on Thursday Jan. 17. A.J. Bell notes that in December, ABF said Primark had faced a tough November, though it stuck by its forecast that profits would increase for the year to September 2019 thanks to careful stock control and higher margins. Analysts will be looking for constant currency sales growth at Primark and the role played by store expansion. (philip.waller@wsj.com)


Hogs Close Down, Cattle Nudges Up -- Market Talk

15:01 ET - Lean hog futures for February close trading down 2.2%, at 62.65 cents a pound. With Friday's close, hog futures erased most of their gains from the past two days amid concerns about traders' inability to accurately assess the hog market while the government is shut down. Meanwhile, live cattle futures for February barely stayed afloat, closing up 0.1% for the day, at $1.24975 a pound. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)


Estimated U.S. Pork Packer Margin Index - Jan 11 
Source: USDA, based on Wall Street Journal calculations 
All figures are on a per-head basis. 
Date     Standard Margin       Estimated margin 
         Operating Index         at vertically - 
                             integrated operations 
Jan 11       +$ 36.25            +$ 17.66 
Jan 10       +$ 32.64            +$ 16.13 
Jan 9        +$ 28.98            +$ 13.34 
* Based on Iowa State University's latest estimated cost of production. 
A positive number indicates a processing margin above the cost of 
production of the animals. 
This report compares the USDA's latest beef carcass composite 
values as a percentage of their respective year-ago prices. 
          For Today             Choice  101.6 
      (Percent of Year-Ago)     Select  101.6 
USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports 

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Friday fell $1.50 per hundred pounds, to $212.46, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices fell $1.50 per hundred pounds, to $206.27. The total load count was 107. Wholesale pork prices rose 71 cents, to $69.95 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.

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