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March 23, 2012


US pork stock up, chicken, beef inventories lower



Higher pork inventories are reported for end-February compared to a month ago, while beef and chicken stocks are lower, US government officials said Thursday (Mar 22).


The USDA, in its monthly cold-storage report, said 624.7 million pounds of pork were in freezer warehouses as of February 29, an increase of 6.7% from the previous month and 8.8% more than a year ago.


Ahead of Thursday's release, analysts on average expected pork supplies in cold storage to be 615 million pounds, or about 5.2% above levels at the end of January and 7.1% above a year ago. US pork output in February was likely the largest in four years and second largest ever due to an extra day for leap year and heavier hog weights, analysts said. In addition, demand for pork was not as brisk last month as it had been throughout most of 2011.


The ham stocks were not as big as expected, especially with the weakness wholesale prices had seen during the month, said Dan Vaught, president of Vaught Futures Insights. "I suspect ham exports were better than expected in February," he said.


The increase in the total pork figure was the largest for February in seven years, said Rich Nelson, director of research with Allendale Inc. He sees the pork data pressuring lean hog futures by 0.40 to 0.60 cent a pound.


Beef stocks in February declined by 19 million pounds, or 3.9%, from the previous month, but were 6.3 million pounds above a year ago. The agency reported 466.1 million pounds in cold storage. Analysts had predicted inventories from 460.4 million to 492.2 million pounds with an average of 477.5 million.


Demand for beef may have been better than expected as the stocks as of end February were smaller than had been predicted. Nelson considered the beef number mildly supportive for the cattle complex.


The USDA reported pork bellies in cold storage at 61.8 million pounds as of February 29, up 15% from a month ago and 21% above last year's level. Ham stocks rose 11.5% from the previous month, a gain of 11.5 million pounds, but 8.4% below the year-ago figure of 121.3 million pounds.


Chicken stocks declined 1.3% in February and 16.3% from a year ago as production cuts made since last summer have trimmed frozen supplies. Chicken processors have continued to whittle output as chick placements into growing houses have averaged about 4.3% below a year ago during the past six weeks.

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