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

NAPERVILLE, Illinois  - U.S. corn and wheat futures have recently hit contract lows and multi-year lows on a most-active basis, tumbling significantly from record or near-record highs set last year.

But speculators’ enormous short positions imply the expectation of additional downside to prices.

In the four-session week ended Nov. 28, money managers’ combined net short position in U.S. grain futures and options, including Chicago corn and wheat, Kansas City and Minneapolis wheat, topped 400,000 contracts for the seventh time since records began in 2006.

That is safely the most bearish for the time of year and it ranks sixth all-time behind a five-week stretch from April to May 2019.

Money managers’ net short in CBOT corn futures and options rose to 206,478 contracts through Nov. 28 from 185,502 a week earlier, driven by another large uptick in gross short positions.

Funds’ new corn stance is their most bearish since June 2020 and most bearish ever for the time of year, surpassing the prior threshold set in 2017.

In CBOT wheat, money managers’ net short of 119,986 futures and options contracts as of Nov. 28 is their most bearish since May, and it is roughly tied with 2016 and 2017 for the date’s most bearish. That compares with a net short of 108,176 contracts a week earlier.

Both corn and wheat open interest plunged in the week ended Nov. 28 as is seasonal. Corn open interest is among the date’s lowest in the last decade, though it is a bit closer to average for wheat.

Money managers through Nov. 28 extended their K.C. wheat net short to near 50,000 futures and options contracts, their largest since May 2019 and among their biggest-ever shorts. Funds’ Minneapolis net short grew slightly to near 29,000 contracts, close to the recent record.

The U.S. government predicts record global corn production in the current marketing year and a multi-year high in stockpiles, led by a record U.S. crop. However, the wheat situation is forecast to tighten, especially among major exporters.

Grain futures sank in the week ended Nov. 28, including a 3.2% decline in CBOT March corn and a 1.8% slide in March wheat. Corn hit contract lows on Nov. 29 but popped 2.4% over the last three sessions as U.S. export sales were larger than expected.

CBOT March wheat found contract lows on Nov. 27 but touched three-week highs by Friday, presumably motivated by short covering. March wheat rallied 7.4% over the last four sessions, the largest four-session win for the most-active contract since late July.

Money managers were also net sellers in the CBOT soy complex in the week ended Nov. 28 with January beans down 2.2%, January meal down 2.6% and January soyoil off nearly 1%.

Funds in that week cut their net long in CBOT soybean futures and options to 67,562 contracts from 81,587 a week earlier. They also trimmed their sizable net long in CBOT soymeal futures and options by about 2,000 to 135,798 contracts, and meal open interest declined seasonally but remains strong.

Money managers increased their modest net short in CBOT soybean oil through Nov. 28 to 4,720 futures and options contracts from 2,831 a week earlier.

The soy complex weakened further late last week as rains were in the forecast for parched areas of Brazil. January beans dropped 1.6% in the last three sessions, meal lost 4.1% and oil slid 2.8%. January meal notched a one-month low on Friday and beans matched a one-month low. Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.

(Editing by Chris Reese)