Rejection of most bids for intervention beef in the recent tender sale of surplus EU stocks has sent a confusing message into the marketplace. The Brussels management committee's refusal to accept prices in the tender documents could imply confidence in the market balance, whereas some traders claim the weak bidding reflected softening demand or uncomfortably heavy supply already available. Reports from major markets on the Continent are inconsistent, and the UK domestic trade gives the same impression. Retail sales and the supermarkets' requirements from processors are said to be flat, but deadweight cattle prices are slightly higher than a year ago on heavier slaughterings. {{MEAT }}