Cattle futures prices surged Monday on the Chicago Board of Trade, with some contracts advancing in anticipation that a report due out Friday will show a decline in the nation's cattle herd, analysts said.
On other markets, pork futures were mixed, grain and soybean futures were mostly higher, sugar fell sharply, copper dropped, precious metals were mixed, energy futures retreated and stock index futures moved lower.
Friday's semiannual cattle inventory report from the Agriculture Department is expected to show about a 2% decline in the U.S. herd, said Tom O'Hare, an analyst in New York with the investment firm Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.
Expectations of a drop in cattle supplies outweighed bearish fundamentals such as lower cash cattle prices and weak retail sales over the weekend, said Philip Stanley, an analyst in Chicago with Thomson McKinnon Securities.
Rumors that a chemical spill in the Soviet Union had endangered some agricultural land also supported prices, analysts said.
But later news reports said the spill of a "highly toxic liquid" had occurred in the Soviet industrial and tourism center of Yorslavl.
The contracts for April and June delivery of live cattle and for November delivery of feeder cattle advanced the daily limit of 1.5 cents a pound.
Stanley said the chemical spill rumors may have confused the market and supported an unreasonably sharp rally.
Pork Futures Advance
"I think a lot of traders were dumbfounded by the limit move we had today," he said. "I don't think anybody expected the market to do this."
Pork futures followed cattle prices higher. Frozen pork belly futures retreated on profit taking, analysts said.
Live cattle settled 0.97 cent to 1.5 cents higher, with the contract for delivery in February at 68.62 cents a pound; feeder cattle were 1.17 cents to 1.5 cents higher, with March at 79.92 cents a pound; hogs were 0.48 cent to 0.72 cent higher, with February at 47.75 cents a pound, and frozen pork bellies were unchanged to 0.78 cent lower, with February at 53.17 cents a pound.
Tables, Page 12