Cattle and hog prices are taking off as Asian countries continue to struggle with the African Swine Fever epidemic.

The disease, which does not affect humans, is widespread in China, Mongolia and Vietnam, with recent reports of new infections in South Korea and the Philippines. The virus is highly contagious and deadly to pigs, leading affected countries to cull healthy hog herds in affected areas to contain the outbreak.

As a result of direct deaths or preventative culling, hog populations in Asia are sharply lower; China’s hog herd is almost 40% smaller than last year, while Vietnam has culled over 15% of its hog population.

These losses are creating a meat shortage in Asia, which is helping U.S. beef and pork exporters, who are seeing higher global prices for their products.

This week, hogs for delivery in December neared a two-month high over 71 cents per pound, while December cattle topped $1.10 per pound, the highest price since mid-August.

October feeder cattle futures, which are young animals and represent future demand, traded to a four-month high Friday over $1.44 per pound.

Energy prices lose their spark

Crude oil and natural gas tumbled this week as tensions with Iran cooled and economic concerns remained high.

There has been no major escalation with Iran after the attacks on Saudi oil production two weeks ago, which has diminished fears of all-out war that could drastically impact global energy production.

Ongoing tensions in Washington, D.C., are weighing on stocks and energy markets, as well. Investors are wary of the economic impact of President Donald Trump’s potential impeachment, as uncertainty and turmoil in Washington can be bad for the economy.

Additionally, no threatening hurricanes are on the horizon, which should leave oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico running at full speed.

As of midday Friday, November crude oil traded for $56 per barrel, a two-week low. November natural gas sank to $2.40 per million British thermal units, a welcome break in price ahead of the winter heating season where many Americans will be using the fuel extensively to heat their homes.

Walt and Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers in Silver Lake, Kansas. They can be reached at 800-411-3888 or www.paragoninvestments.com.

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