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

NAPERVILLE, Illinois - Chicago-traded soybean futures last week closed below $13 per bushel for the first time in a year-and-a-half, though speculators are still hanging on to the net long position they have maintained since April 2020.

Meanwhile, an unusually dry end to May across the U.S. Corn Belt and the possible continuation of that pattern into mid-June sparked funds’ biggest weekly round of short covering in CBOT corn in nearly three years.

Most-active CBOT soybean futures tumbled 2% in the week ended May 30, seemingly cementing funds into bearish territory. May 30 featured most-active beans’ first settle below $13 per bushel since December 2021, and November soybeans lost nearly 3% during the four-day trading week.

As of May 30, money managers’ net long in CBOT soybeans stood at just 529 futures and options contracts versus 4,147 the week before. Exiting longs were more prominent, but funds also covered soybean shorts, the first such instance in eight weeks.

Most-active CBOT corn futures rose nearly 3% and new-crop December futures gained 1.6% in the week ended May 30, motivated by unfavorable U.S. weather. Money managers slashed their net corn short by nearly 47,000 contracts to 51,065 futures and options contracts.

That was entirely on short covering, the largest such round since August 2020, though speculators started padding their short positions only in late February.

Both soybean meal and soybean oil futures shed more than 3% in the week ended May 30, though funds were notable sellers only in meal. Money managers cut their net long in CBOT soybean meal futures and options to 59,676 contracts, the lightest in a year. That compares with 73,789 a week earlier.

Soybean oil had been gaining throughout that week but plunged on May 30 along with other global vegoils and crude oil on broad economic concerns.

Money managers expanded their net short in CBOT soybean oil futures and options by 572 contracts to 37,449 as of May 30, their most bearish oil view since July 2019. They have been net sellers of the vegoil in 22 of the last 28 weeks.

Most-active CBOT wheat futures fell 5% in the week ended May 30, finishing it off with the first settle below $6 per bushel since December 2020. Money managers extended their net short to 126,998 futures and options contracts, the largest since January 2018, up more than 8,200 on the week.

They also cut nearly 7,000 contracts from their net long in Kansas City wheat futures and options, which fell to 9,628 contracts. Funds increased their net short in Minneapolis wheat to 7,703 contracts from 6,402 a week earlier.

The 2.5-year low in CBOT wheat combined with China’s waterlogged crop and strength in corn lifted most-active wheat futures 4.7% between Wednesday and Friday. Most-active corn on Friday hit the highest levels since April 26, rising 2.5% over the three sessions and possibly erasing more fund shorts.

December corn rose 3% over that period as forecasts still showed dryness for parts of the U.S. Corn Belt through at least next week. November beans were up 2.6% and most-active beans rose more than 4%, meaning funds are likely still long.

Most-active soymeal added 1.3% between Wednesday and Friday, but soyoil surged over 7%.

In the livestock sector, benchmark CME lean hog futures set contract lows on May 26, though both August live cattle and feeder cattle set contract highs on Friday.

Money managers as of May 30 held a record net short in lean hogs of 31,110 futures and options contracts, up from 24,129 a week earlier. They held a net long in live cattle of 107,835 contracts as of May 30, up from 101,990 in the prior week and their most bullish since early March.

Funds’ record net long in live cattle is 154,550 contracts from April 2019.

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

(Writing by Karen Braun Editing by Matthew Lewis)