Live cattle futures traders generally held their net long or short positions nearly steady and near zero in the week ended Tuesday, undecided about where the market was headed.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in its weekly report Friday said managed money, a term for large funds, had a net long position of only 5,046 contracts, down 1,693, or 25.1%, from 6,739 the previous week. This was the lowest net long position in three weeks, but the lowest point in the lat year was the week ended Oct. 13 when it was a net long 1,209.
During the latest week, commercial traders, those who theoretically can make or take delivery of a futures contract, had a net short position of 30,529 contracts, down 893, or 2.84%, from 31,422 the previous week.
CME Group data show total open interest during the CFTC reporting week climbed 5,320 contracts, or 1.99%, to 272,714 from 267,394.
The CFTC said managed money arrived at its new net long position by liquidating 695 long positions and adding 998 while taking on an additional 141 spread positions. This left them in control of 19.6% of total long open interest and 17.7% of total short open interest.
Commercial traders arrived at their new net short position by adding 2,667 long positions and 1,774 new short poisitions. This left them representing 24.3% of total long open interest and 35.5% of total short open interest.
During the latest reporting week, the most-active Feb live cattle futures contract was very volitile with the market trading in a wide range but with a bearish bias. The contract closed Tuesday at $128.02 per cwt, down only $0.30 from $128.32 the previous Tuesday but ranged from a high of $131.15 to a low of $125.50. The contract since has settled on a narrower range near the midpoint of this range.
MANAGED MONEY BOOSTS NET SHORT CORN POSITION
Meanwhile, managed money increased its net short corn position to 79,859 contracts from 53,164 contracts the previous week, a gain of 26,695, or 50.2%. This left the funds with their largest net short position since the week ended June 23 when it was 122,968.
Commercial corn traders cut their net short positions during the latest CFTC reporting week by 17,413, or 6.87%, to 236,047 contracts from 253,460. This was their lowest net short position since the week ended June 23 when it was 145,598 contracts.
The CFTC said managed money arrived at its new net long position by liquidating 14,910 long positions and adding 11,785 short positions while unwinding 3,444 spread positions. This left them in control of 12.2% ot total long open interest and 17.9% of total short open interest.
Commercial traders arrived at their new position by adding 9,707 new long positions while covering 7,706 short positions, to leave their positions representing 25.5% of total long open interest and 42.4% of total short open interest.
The CME Group said total open interest during the week ended Tuesday rose 6,224 contracts, or 0.45%, to 1.404 million from 1.398 million.
After dropping sharply on Tuesday, Nov. 10, the most-active Mar corn contract slipped sideways in the latest CFTC week, and Wednesday-through-Friday trading since then has shown a tendency to rise slightly.
CASH FED CATTLE MARKETS THIN
Cash cattle trading last week appeared to be thin and concentrated mainly in Nebraska. Traders reported sales at $125 to mostly $126 to $127 on a live basis, about steady to $1 lower. On a dressed basis, prices were reported at $195, down about $4 to $5, which would be about equal to the live-basis trade.
Cattle trade the previous week was $5 per cwt lower at mostly $129 per cwt on a live basis and $2 to $4 lower on a dressed basis in a range from $197 to $202.
Wholesale beef prices Friday were lower, with the USDA choice cutout at $203.14 per cwt, down $1.69 on the day, and its select cutout at $190.95, off $2.39. For the week, choice fell $6.16, or 2.94%, while select dropped $8.10, or 4.07%.
The choice/select spread Friday widened to $12.19 from $11.49 on Thursday, and there were 96 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $174.39 per cwt, off $1.38. This compares with the Jan settlement of $163.65, up $1.20.