Cattle feeders offered 7,561 head in the weekly Fed Cattle Exchange Auction Wednesday and sold 1,443 head for a weighted average price of $105/cwt.–746 head for delivery at 1-9 days and 697 head for delivery at 1-17 days. Except for one lot from Iowa, sales were from the Southern Plains, where last week’s negotiated price was mostly $112. Country trade in the region so far this week is also at $105.
Even so, Cattle futures continued higher in active trade, following outside markets, despite growing concerns about the potential of COVID-19 to reduce harvest capacity utilization. If that happens to any degree, then logic and last summer’s packing plant fire suggest higher beef prices and lower fed cattle prices.
Live Cattle futures closed an average of $2.21 higher, (40¢ higher in the back contract to $4.50 higher in spot Apr).
Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $4.72 higher, ($1.22 higher at the back to $6.55 higher).
Wholesale beef values were sharply lower on light demand and light to moderate offerings, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service.
Choice boxed beef cutout value was $5.54 lower Wednesday afternoon at $222.34/cwt. Select was $5.98 lower at $211.77.
Corn futures closed fractionally lower to 1¢ lower.
After fractionally higher to 4¢ higher through May ’21, Soybean futures closed mostly 6¢ to 7¢ higher.
The monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates are scheduled to be released Thursday.
Major U.S. financial indices closed sharply higher Wednesday. Support included increasing optimism that COVID-19 may be near a positive turning point, as well as announcement that Bernie Sanders dropped out of the 2020 race for the U.S. presidency. Minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) also indicated intentions to maintain interest rates at current levels for the foreseeable future.
“With regard to monetary policy beyond this meeting, these participants judged that it would be appropriate to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0.0% to 0.25% until policymakers were confident that the economy had weathered recent events and was on track to achieve the Committee’s maximum employment and price stability goals,” according to the FOMC minutes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 779 points higher. The S&P 500 closed 90 points higher. The NASDAQ was up 203 points.
Quick service restaurant transactions were 40% less year over year for the week ending Mar. 29, according to the NPD Group (NPD). Transactions at full service restaurants were 79% less. Total restaurant customer transactions were down 42%.
“The transaction declines partially reflect the struggle of on-premise restaurants to pivot to off-premise models,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Many restaurants that are attempting to make the move are doing so with limited menu offerings and without the benefit of drive-thru lanes. Anecdotally, some operators are giving up the cause and closing altogether.”
About 97% of U.S. restaurants are now under some level of restrictions, with most prohibiting dine-in service, according to NPD’s restaurant census, ReCount®. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, on-premise dining represented 52% of restaurant industry dollars, and off-premise, like carryout, drive thru, and delivery, represented 48% of dollars. Carryout represented the largest dollar share at 53% of off-premise modes, drive-thru 38%, and delivery 9% of dollars. As of year ending February 2020, digital orders represented 13% of all off-premise dollars.
“Wholesale and retail beef markets have endured enormous upheaval since mid-March,” says Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University, in his weekly market comments. “Starting Mar. 16, the surge in retail grocery buying put huge demands on retail supply chains resulting in dramatic and immediate spikes in wholesale beef prices. The overall cutout price jumped by nearly 19% in a matter of three days. Wholesale prices continued to push higher until Mar. 23, peaking at $257.32 cwt., up 23.6% from Mar. 13 levels. Since then, the cutout dropped over 10% to $230.44/cwt. on Apr. 3. It is not clear exactly where the boxed beef cutout will settle out in the coming days.”
All of that shifting also impacts demand for various wholesale beef cuts.
From the beginning of March to the early part of April, Peel says prices for most steak items declined: down 29% for the tenderloin, for example and down 7.7% for the ribeye.
“Prices for loin strips, a popular summer grilling steak that is normally increasing seasonally at this time, is up over 22%. Top sirloin, a multi-purpose steak used in both restaurants and at retail grocery is priced nearly 13% higher,” Peel explains.
“At the same time, end meat prices, which are typically declining into the summer, are higher, driven by grocery demand for value cuts and ground beef.”