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US lean hog futures drop further on US-China trade uncertainty

US lean hog futures fell on Tuesday, extending their latest slide to five straight sessions on uncertainty about US pork exports to China, traders said.

20 November 2019, at 10:19am

Market bulls have been hoping for a US trade deal with Beijing that could bolster US pork sales to China, the world's biggest pork consumer. China has ramped up meat imports globally over the last year as it struggles with African swine fever.

But hog futures sagged as prospects for a trade deal appeared to wane in recent days. US President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday (19 November) that he would raise tariffs on Chinese imports if no deal is reached with Beijing to end the trade war. The next round of tariffs is due to start in mid-December.

"For a while, it looked like the doors were going to open and we would have a trade deal. (But) we have not really gotten positive news, and I think they (traders) are cutting back on some of their positions," said Altin Kalo, agricultural economist for New Hampshire-based Steiner Consulting.

February lean hog futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) settled down 0.600 cent at 69.625 cents per pound after falling to 68 cents, the contract's lowest since 11 September. Nearby December hogs ended down 0.600 cent at 62.150 cents per pound.

Softening wholesale pork prices underscored the need for robust export sales at a time of ample US supplies, Kalo said. After the CME close, the US pork cutout fell $4.47 per cwt, driven by declines in prices for hams and bellies.

"That's the nervousness in the hog market: whether these product prices are sustainable as we go past the peak holiday demand period," Kalo said.

CME live cattle futures closed mostly lower as the market paused after a two-month rally. The benchmark February contract settled down 0.050 cent at 125.050 cents per pound, and CME January feeder cattle fell 0.450 cent to 144.025 cents per pound.

Traders await the US Department of Agriculture's monthly cattle-on-feed report on Friday.