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.

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