Pork Futures Score Limit Gains On USDA Report
Undated (AP) _ Hog and pork belly futures prices shot up their permitted daily limits Thursday after the Agriculture Department issued a quarterly hogs and pigs tally that showed far fewer animals than traders had expected.
On other commodity markets, energy and orange juice futures turned lower; precious metals advanced strongly; and grains and soybeans were mixed.
Hog futures settled 1.5 cents higher across the board on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange with the contract for delivery in February at 50.5 cents a pound; frozen pork bellies were 2 cents higher across the board with February at 51.47 cents a pound.
Live cattle futures settled .20 cent lower to .40 cent higher with February at 76.95 cents a pound; feeder cattle were unchanged to .35 cent higher with January at 84.55 cents a pound.
Market analysts had predicted limit gains in the pork complex following Wednesday’s USDA hogs and pigs inventory report, which showed a 3 percent drop in the national herd size from the end of 1988 to the end of 1989.
The report also indicated that springtime farrowing intentions - a measure of expected herd expansion - were down 6 percent from a year ago.
The report surprised most analysts, whose observations of slaughter rates relative to the September report had led them to expect little change in the December tally.
One reason for the decline in herd size was the USDA’s sharp downward revision in the September inventory. Some analysts found the revision especially disturbing because the USDA in September had revised sharply upward the June inventory number.
″It’s really casting a little bit of doubt on the credibility of the hog numbers being released by the USDA,″ said analyst Dale Durchholz of AgriVisor Services Inc. in Bloomington, Ill. ″It makes you wonder what the actual benchmark is.″
Charles Levitt, senior livestock analyst with Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc., was more blunt.
″The numbers just don’t make sense,″ he said. ″We are being kicked around back and forth from one report to the next simply to make the inventory figure fit the subsequent slaughter.″
Orange juice and energy futures turned lower, ending steep runups in those markets linked to the December cold spell, which damaged the Florida orange crop, sharply boosted heating-oil demand, froze some oil refineries and taxed others to the breaking point.
″I think it was just a lot of liquidation,″ said energy analyst Andrew Lebow of E.D.& F. Man International Futures Inc. ″The crude-oil market had gone up about $2 iin three days. That’s a huge move and the market was a little tired.″
West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled .27 cent to .57 cent lower on the New York Mercantile Exchange with February at $23.41 a barrel; heating oil was 1.45 cents to 5.01 cents lower with February at 73.19 cents a gallon; unleaded gasoline was 1.25 cents to 1.94 cents lower with February at 65.29 cents a gallon.
Brazilian authorities announced a resumption of orange juice exports to the United States after a week’s suspension, which contributed to the drop in orange juice futures prices.
Orange juice futures finished 1.05 cents to 3 cents lower on the New York Cotton Exchange with January at $1.71 a pound.
Precious metals futures rebounded after two days of deep losses. Platinum led the rally as Japanese buyers returned to the market after a five-day New Year’s break.
On the New York Merc, platinum futures soared $16.30 to $18.90 with January settling at $488.70 a troy ounce.
On New York’s Commodity Exchange, gold futures settled $4.40 to $5.30 higher with February at $400.80 a troy ounce; silver was 11.5 cents to 12.5 cents higher with March at $5.335 a troy ounce.
Soybean futures prices finished moderately lower and sharply below the day’s highs on the Chicago Board of Trade as early excitement about new export business gave way to bearish technical signals.
Soybean futures settled 3/4 cent to 5 cents lower with January at $5.63 1/4 a bushel; wheat futures were 3/4 cent lower to 1/2 cent higher with March at $4.09 1/4 a bushel; corn was 1/4 cent lower to 1 1/2 cents higher with March at $2.38 1/4 a bushel; oats were 1 1/4 cents to 3 cents lower with March at $1.50 3/4 a bushel.