Many factors affecting beef market prices and volatility

A wide variety of internal and external factors are impacting beef and cattle price levels and volatility.  Beef production is at a seasonal peak in June with weekly beef production since late May estimated to be nearly 7 percent above year ago levels.  Fed cattle prices have dropped and could be near an early seasonal low with feedlots ahead of schedule for summer marketings.  Year over year cattle slaughter is up while cattle carcass weights are lower compared to last year, moderating beef production increases somewhat.  With Independence Day meat already booked, wholesale beef values have dropped sharply the past ten days to support sales of seasonally large beef supplies.  If the three-day July 4 weekend results in strong retail beef movement, beef markets may maintain good momentum through the summer doldrums between July 4 and Labor Day meat sales in August.  The latest retail beef prices indicate that beef prices are declining quite slowly; in fact, the all fresh beef price for May was up slightly from April.  Overall indications are that beef demand is holding strong in the face of growing beef supplies.  Beef movement this spring has been good; indicated in part by the drawdown of large beef cold storage supplies to levels six percent below year earlier levels in the latest report.

The June Cattle on Feed report was very close to expectations and should not provoke much market reaction.   The report did confirm strong marketings that suggest that feedlots continue to be very current, as evidenced by declining carcass weights.  The report also confirmed continued year over year increases in feedlot placements meaning that feedlot production will be cyclically higher late in the year.  The increased placements were all in the heavy weight categories and will be marketed out of feedlots in the fourth quarter of the year.  June 1 feedlot inventories were 102 percent of year ago levels.  Despite larger feedlot inventories and big feedlot placements, feedlots are in significantly better shape now compared to this time last year and well positioned to handle the challenges of increased feedlot production in the coming months as long as marketings continue at a good pace

Last week’s Brexit vote, with the United Kingdom opting in a close vote to exit the European Union, sent shock waves through global markets and especially for currency exchange markets.  The U.S. dollar strengthened, not only against the British pound, but also against most other currencies.  The Japanese yen also strengthened sharply as global markets turned to the safe havens of the dollar and the yen.  It is likely that a good deal of the uncertainty surrounding the UK departure from the European Union will subside but the timetable is unknown and some impacts will persist for extended periods or permanently.  Meantime, U.S. beef and other meat markets are hampered by the additional headwinds of a stronger dollar slowing exports and supporting imports.

Soybeans led a crop price rally over the last month, mostly on crop concerns out of South America.  Corn followed suit supported by ample fund buying which all crashed down last week on the reality that the U.S. corn crop is large and in very good shape at this point in the year.  Higher average soybean prices are expected in the coming crop year, with U.S. corn prices close to year earlier levels.  This week’s crop acreage report could show some shift of corn acres to soybeans although total planted acreage could be bigger with less prevented plant acres expected compared to last year.  Corn, soybean and wheat acreage could all shift somewhat with this next report. Major impacts on crop markets and prices are not expected but the uncertainty is there. In general, beef market fundamentals are quite strong but broad-based market volatility will continue to be a challenge for producers.