Sizable beef inventories and sluggish retail demand drove cattle futures prices lower Thursday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
"There was good boxed beef movement today and Wednesday's strong session put a dent in the inventory but didn't clean it up," said Chuck Levitt, analyst with Shearson Lehman Bros. in Chicago.
Levitt said many cash-starved cattle producers are liquidating a larger share of their herd, a factor that may thin slaughter numbers and boost prices several months down the road.
Retailers, however, are not taking advanatge of the inexpensive beef, possibly cushioning themselves for a rise in prices, Levitt said.
"They're promoting beef, but not at prices attractive enough to create a good movement over their counters," Levitt said.
Near-term live hog prices were pressured by heavy deliveries. "The packers raised their bids and were suddenly covered with hogs," Levitt said.
The cash market for pork bellies was strong and boosted several contracts, he said.