RPT-COLUMN-Funds may have expanded bullish bets in CBOT soy, meal and corn -Braun

(Repeats story that ran Sunday with no change to headline or text)

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By Karen Braun

NAPERVILLE, Ill., Feb 12 (Reuters) – Price strength since late January implies money managers may have increased or at least maintained overall bullishness across Chicago grains and oilseeds, though confirmation remains absent amid a data delay.

As of late January, large speculators held moderate to large net long positions across CBOT corn, soybeans and soybean products, and those collectively outweighed their sizable net short in CBOT wheat.

A ransomware attack on ION Markets earlier this month prevented customers from collecting and reporting daily positions to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

As a result, CFTC has so far postponed the Feb. 3 and Feb. 10 publications of its weekly Commitments of Traders (COT) data, stating on Friday that it still had not received sufficient information. The report will resume once the remaining data is collected, but the possible timing is unknown.

The last COT report was released Jan. 27 and covered the week ended Jan. 24, so intel on various market participants’ positioning has been unavailable ever since. CBOT futures have mostly strengthened since then.

Close market watchers believe money managers were strong net buyers of CBOT soybean, wheat and soymeal futures from Jan. 25 through Feb. 10. Funds were also seen as modest buyers of corn and modest sellers of soyoil during the period.

MARKET ACTIVITY

Between Jan. 25 and Feb. 10, CBOT soybean meal futures rose 8.6%, the most of any grain or oilseed contract. That includes a top of $501 per short ton on Feb. 10, the most-active’s highest since June 2014, motivated by further deterioration of drought-stricken soybeans in Argentina.

Most-active soybeans rose 3.6% in that 13-day stretch, reaching an 8-session high of $15.43-1/4 per bushel on Friday and settling just below. CBOT soybean oil is the only grain or oilseed to have fallen since Jan. 25, ending the period down 0.7% but having dropped as much as 4.2%.

Most-active CBOT wheat futures climbed 7% during the 13 sessions, on Friday hitting $7.90 per bushel, their highest since Jan. 3. Escalating tensions between major wheat exporters Ukraine and Russia were in focus at the end of last week.

Black Sea concerns and worsening crops in Argentina also helped CBOT corn drift 0.5% higher in the last 13 days, ending at $6.80-1/2 per bushel Friday. Corn has been the most mild-mannered of CBOT contracts since Jan. 25, trading up or down by less than 2% since then.

ESTIMATES

As of Jan. 24, money managers’ net long position in CBOT corn futures and options hit an 11-week high of 201,797 contracts. They had sold a huge chunk of soybeans in the week ended Jan. 24, dropping their net long to 146,261 futures and options contracts.

In the week ended Jan. 24, money managers sold soymeal futures and options for the first time since late November, reducing their net long to 135,503 contracts from the record 150,939 a week earlier. They also sold soyoil for a fourth straight week, cutting their net long to 35,961 contracts, the lowest since mid-August.

Money managers as of Jan. 24 held their most bearish stance in CBOT wheat since May 2019 with a net short of 73,933 futures and options contracts, having been net sellers in 12 of the latest 16 weeks.

Daily estimates collected by Reuters suggest that in the 13 sessions through Feb. 10, commodity funds were net buyers of 22,500 CBOT wheat futures. Money managers have not bought or sold more than 22,500 wheat futures and options contracts in a two-week stretch since March 2022, so the trade estimates may be high.

Funds are pegged to have bought 16,000 soymeal futures in that period, implying the net long as of Friday was challenging the record. Net buying in soybeans and corn is seen at 21,500 and 2,500 futures contracts, respectively, and soyoil selling is predicted at 2,500 contracts.

The daily fund estimates should serve as a loose guide, but they have been wrong in the past. One notable time occurred in early 2019 when the U.S. government shut down for 35 days, cutting off data from both the CFTC and the Department of Agriculture.

Unbeknownst to the market, money managers during that period sold their entire net long position in CBOT corn, which was around 128,000 contracts when the shutdown began in mid-December. Futures declined only 2% during the stretch and analysts wrongly assumed funds had maintained bullishness. Karen Braun is a market analyst with Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.

(Editing by Diane Craft)

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