We are just two days into the week, but the industry seems convinced this week’s cash trade will be something firmer than last week’s $144-147 market. One packer bid surfaced yesterday in KS at $144. The cash optimism had futures trading $1.00+ higher yesterday and firmer again this morning. Of course the nearby Feb contract has led the charge higher, but Feb expires this Friday and the Apr contract will be in a rare position of trading at a significant discount to the cash market. A five-year average would show Apr traditionally trading at a $0.75 premium to cash the first week of March. It is interesting to read an updated report from the USDA Bureau in Beijing highlighting the increasing popularity of beef consumption in that country. They estimate China will consume 13.8 bil lbs of beef this year, up 5.1% vs. last year, making them the third largest consumer in the world behind the U.S. and Brazil. Of course the U.S. still cannot officially export beef directly to China, but Hong Kong can, and Vietnam can, and for some reason our sales to those two countries have surged in the past year… Not a coincidence.