CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Chicago Mercantile Exchange hogs settled well into bullish territory Wednesday on fund buying, short covering and buy stops.

Live and feeder cattle closed higher as well. However, February pork bellies, the only contract that traded, ended lower.

Lean hogs slipped at first on moderate declines that spilled over from Tuesday and that evening's pork cutout slump. Steady-to-lower Missouri direct hog quotes deterred early lean hog buyers.

October and December's downward pace quickened after both contracts gave up 20-day moving average support turf which tripped sell stops.

And, some still fret that daily hog kills above 430,000 head will pressure near-term cash hog prices and dampen wholesale pork prices.

Nonetheless, shorts decided to pocket profits well in advance of the weekend and before the U.S. Department of Agriculture quarterly hog report on Friday at 3 p.m. EDT. The following are analysts' estimated averages and ranges for the data's top three categories:

Average Range All hogs and pigs on Sep 1 98.2 97.4-99.0 Kept for breeding 97.4 96.5-98.2 Kept for marketing 98.3 97.3-99.1

Lean hog gains accelerated, fueled by high-priced Chicago Board of Trade corn and more short covering. Both aided in front-months' return above 20-day moving average support that was lost earlier in the session.

And, Tuesday's U.S. government monthly cold storage report total ham and pork results were considered slightly bullish for futures.

Spreading into October out of back months was the most popular play during the otherwise tranquil session.

Most hog prices Wednesday were flat to weak and packers are expected to maintain that trend on Thursday because of abundant supplies.

Bearish traders are skeptical that Wednesday's futures rally will hold Thursday without fundamental underpinning.

And market participants are expected to tweak positions on the eve of Friday's USDA hog numbers.

October hogs ended 105 points higher at 50.92 cents a pound, and December closed 130 points higher at 50.05 cents.

February pork bellies closed 122 points lower at 80.17 cents a pound on sell stops and chart-related selling. Concern about daily hog slaughter rates and the USDA's looming hog report kept would-be futures buyers on the defensive.

The federal government's monthly cold storage belly figure Tuesday, and that evening's weekly CME belly storage outcome, were viewed as neutral to mildly bearish for futures Wednesday.

Other belly contracts were unquoted.

Cattle Complex

CME live cattle closed higher on fund buying, short covering and buy stops.

Live cattle stepped back after the opening bell which triggered a light number of sell stops. Traders took a minute to gauge the pulse of early-session market direction and pondered the fate of this week's potential cash cattle price outcome.

Ultimately, optimism that packers may pay no worse than steady money for fed cattle this week based on reduced numbers of cattle for sale this week inspired bullish traders.

And, October and December oversold Relative Strength Index conditions attracted would-be bulls.

Those who were short the market quickly scrambled to cover their positions, which drove October and December through a host of buy stops. And back-cattle months received an added boost from CBOT corn's offensive.

However, October and December's climb stalled after both contracts encountered 10-day moving average resistance.

Spreading was common throughout the session with October/February and December/February forward positioning the most noticeable.

Cattle traders Thursday will determine whether Wednesday's board surge was warrented. Boxed beef quotes are indecisive. Beef packer margins are profitable but somewhat skimpy. And, this week's cash cattle trade is yet to be determined.

USDA's midday Wednesday boxed beef data showed choice cuts down $0.42 per hundredweight, but select items were up $0.11.

The latest operating margin index for beef packers was plus $16.15 per head, compared to plus $16.20 the previous day, as calculated by

Cash-basis fed cattle bids were reported at $82 per hundredweight versus $86 to $87 asking prices. Fed cattle last week brought $84 to mostly $84.50.

October live cattle ended 117 points higher at 86.45 cents a pound, and December closed 140 points higher at 85.75 cents.

CME feeder cattle also finished higher on short covering, live cattle buying and buy stops.

Front-month discounts to CME's feeder cattle index and November's oversold chart signal enticed bullish traders.

Spot-September tracked the exchange's feeder cattle index heading into the contract's expiration Thursday.

September feeder cattle settled up 10 points at 96.85 cents, and October ended up 102 points at 97.87 cents.

-By Theopolis Waters; Dow Jones Newswires; 312-341-5778;