By Joanna Newman
US cattle prices appeared to recover this week after spending months under pressure from gyrations in the pig market.
After being dragged down nearly 15% during the fourth quarter of 1998 by a collapse in pig values, cattle prices recouped at least 5%.
The Chicago February live cattle futures contract closed on Wednesday (13 January) at 62.15¢/lb (82.5p/kg), up from 59.6¢ at the start of the month.
Feeder cattle contracts, for lighter store cattle entering the feedlots, followed a similar path.
The March feeder contract climbed from around 69.7¢/lb at the start of January to 72.32¢/lb on Wednesday.
In the cash market, packers are now willing to pay more for slaughter animals, with bids up at 62¢/lb from 58¢ at the start of the year.
Higher beef prices are driving the trend: the light-weight choice-grade beef cutout is over 101¢/lb, compared with below 100¢ last week.
Meanwhile, the traditional inverse relationship between feed costs and cattle prices reared its head again.
After a parallel decline in both cattle and maize prices, livestock returns have rallied, while grain values posted losses.