Livestock and meat futures prices plunged sharply Thursday with many contracts losing the limit allowed for daily trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
On other markets, energy futures moved higher, cotton plunged the limit, grains and soybeans rallied to wipe out most earlier losses and precious metals were mixed.
A sharp setback in the stock market, with the recollection of the battering livestock took after the Oct. 19 stock crash, was largely responsible for Thursday's retreat, analysts said.
"Everyone was watching the poor performance of the Dow," said Charlie Richardson, an analyst in Denver with Lind-Waldock & Co., "and when December cattle went below 63.35 (cents a pound), no one was willing to buy."
Seen as Luxury Item
The 63.35 cent threshold was the low just before a recent bullish cattle-on-feed report sent futures up 4 cents a pound.
The decline of the Dow Jones industrial average, which plunged 72.44 points, unnerved traders, who feared that a weakening economy would mean poor beef sales.
"Everyone remembers the hammering the cattle market took when the stock market broke," said Richardson. Cattle futures fell 7 cents a pound in the aftermath of the Oct. 19 crash.
"Beef is still perceived as a luxury item," he said. "And if you're struggling, you'll buy 39-cent turkey rather than a steak at $4 a pound."
Live cattle settled 1.33 cents to the limit 1.50 cents lower, with the contract for delivery in December at 62.77 cents a pound; feeder cattle were 0.80 cent to the limit 1.50 cents lower, with January at 73.07 cents a pound; live hogs were 0.10 cent to the limit 1.50 cent lower, with December at 42.92 cents a pound, and frozen pork bellies were 1.57 cents to the limit 2 cents lower, with February at 51.92 cents a pound.
Energy futures advanced on the New York Mercantile Exchange.