By Joanna Newman

THERE has been little fresh news to spur the cattle market this week, with most prices unchanged from a week earlier.

Packing activity is being driven by retail demand for beef, which is reported to be fairly healthy.

Analysts attribute the good consumption levels to overall confidence in the economy, cooler weather in some regions and a seasonal upturn in wholesale activity ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

Slaughter prices are steady, with packers bidding 63¢/lb (86p/kg) and producers offering live animals at 65-66¢/lb, unchanged from last week.

On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the price of feeder cattle has been prevented from rallying by the strength in maize.

With grain values surging in the face of weather-damage to growing crops, this is adding to the cost of gain of lighter cattle and discouraging a price increase.

The August feeder (store) cattle contract closed at 76.7¢/lb (105p/kg) on Tuesday (10 August), little changed from a week ago.

The same hot, dry weather conditions that are harming the maize crop are also burning up grazing pasture and slowing the rate of weight-gain in the feedlots.

This in turn could limit the supply of heavier animals in the autumn.

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