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Funds chip away at huge CBOT grain shorts amid demand-driven rally -Braun



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The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a market analyst for Reuters.

By Karen Braun

NAPERVILLE, Ill., Dec 10 (Reuters) -Speculators axed a chunk of their plentiful short positions in Chicago-traded wheat last week with China on a U.S. buying spree, but their net short remains historically heavy.

Most-active CBOT wheat futures Wv1 surged more than 10% in the week ended Dec. 5, and money managers disposed of 21,402 gross wheat shorts, cutting their net short to 96,222 futures and options contracts from 119,986 a week earlier.

In the prior week, money managers’ gross shorts in CBOT wheat futures and options occupied a record share of total open interest, which is near average levels for the date. That share eased in the latest week, though the associated short covering was much weaker than the episode seen in June, for example.

China this month has bought more than 1 million metric tons of U.S. soft red winter wheat, which is highly unusual in such a short span. This helped CBOT wheat notch an eight-session winning streak through Dec. 7, the first such instance in over 11 years.

A price decline on Friday rendered wheat unchanged over the last three sessions, though Wednesday and Thursday’s gains were accompanied by the strongest trading volumes ever seen in December.

In response to the recent demand, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday increased its estimate for 2023-24 U.S. wheat exports, but the number still represents a 52-year low. Global wheat projections were near expectations, unsupportive of the recent bullish sentiment.

Money managers significantly reduced their net short in CBOT corn futures and options through Dec. 5 to 160,533 contracts from 206,478 a week earlier, though the new position remains tied for the date’s most bearish. Short covering was a bit more prominent, but funds added nearly 20,000 new gross longs, the most for any week since July.

March corn futures CH24 were up 3.6% in the week ended Dec. 5, which started with contract lows on Nov. 29. Strength in wheat and decent U.S. corn export demand offered support, though potential scenarios for Brazil’s upcoming second corn crop may also be in consideration as key areas are dry.


SOYBEANS AND PRODUCTS

The dry weather in Brazil’s center-west has stoked fears for the in-progress soybean crop, but speculators’ concerns have eased since mid-November as they were net sellers of soybeans for a third consecutive week through Dec. 5.

Money managers slashed their net long in CBOT soybean futures and options during the week to 36,633 contracts from 67,562 in the prior week, their largest net selling week since April. CBOT soybeans Sv1 had fallen 3% during that week, though they were net unchanged in the last three sessions.

Some dry areas of Brazil have had some showers, and forecasts as of Friday continued showing additional rain chances, though model runs were inconsistent. USDA cut Brazil’s soybean crop by 2 million tons to 161 million on Friday, but it raised the previous crop by the same amount to 160 million tons, effectively offsetting the current losses.

Money managers were also net sellers of CBOT soybean product futures and options in the week ended Dec. 5. They cut their sizable net long in soymeal to 118,182 contracts from 135,798 a week earlier, and they extended their net short in soyoil to 17,902 contracts from 4,720, marking their first bearish oil view during December since 2018.

CBOT soymeal SMv1 fell 3% in the last three sessions, hitting seven-week lows on Thursday. Soyoil was unchanged and corn futures dropped 1% between Wednesday and Friday.


Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.


Graphic- Managed money net position in Chicago wheat futures and options https://tmsnrt.rs/3R9oZAy

Graphic- Managed money net position in CBOT soybean futures and options https://tmsnrt.rs/4a4yYzI

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