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LIVESTOCK-Lean hog futures up as swine disease fuels U.S. pork export hopes

Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO, May 15 (Reuters) - U.S. lean hog futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) rose for a second day on Wednesday, supported by expectations of increased demand for U.S. pork as African swine fever spreads in China's hog herd and elsewhere, traders said.

"The African swine fever news and talk was everywhere today," said Dennis Smith, broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago.

China's sow herd fell by 22.3% in April from a year earlier, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said. The plunge in the number of breeding pigs follows a 21% decline in March, which was at the time the largest ever recorded.

China's sow herd is being closely watched by the global livestock market, as an epidemic of incurable African swine fever kills millions of animals in the world's top pork producer.

"Obviously (it's) bullish, when you are losing breeding stocks at a rate like that," Smith said.

CME June lean hog futures closed up 2.700 cents at 91.825 cents per pound and July lean hogs rose 1.875 cents to settle at 91.925 cents.

Smith noted that brokerage Credit Swisse on Tuesday raised its rating of Tyson Foods Inc stock to "outperform," from "neutral," citing the upside to chicken, beef and pork prices from the outbreak of African swine fever.

Meanwhile, hogs in the Iowa and southern Minnesota cash market rose by 54 cents on Wednesday afternoon.

Traders were awaiting Thursday's weekly export sales report from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for fresh data on U.S. sales of pork and beef.

Live cattle futures closed modestly higher on Wednesday, narrowing their discount to the cash market.

CME June live cattle futures settled up 0.175 cent at 109.675 cents per pound and August live cattle rose 0.250 cent at 106.975 cents per pound.

Cash cattle traded in Kansas and Texas near $117 per cwt, traders and USDA data showed, down about $3 from last week.

However, feedlots rejected lower bids near $115, Smith said.

"(Live cattle) futures bounced off that news, simply because for the first time in a long time, the feedlots didn't cave in. They showed a little backbone and refused to sell on the lower bid," Smith said.

But feeder cattle futures closed lower, pressured as a jump in Chicago Board of Trade corn futures this week signaled rising feed costs.

August feeder cattle fell 0.225 cent to 142.275 cents per pound and September feeder cattle ended down 0.350 cent at 143.225 cents. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Richard Chang)