CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Chicago Mercantile Exchange hogs for a third straight session Thursday closed significantly higher on fund buying and buy stops. Also, chart-related buying surfaced after December and February cracked the 100-day moving average resistance barrier.

Pork bellies also closed well above board for the third consecutive day. Feeder cattle ended higher. And most live cattle futures finished on the plus-side of the ledger.

Follow-through buying after Wednesday's lean hogs gains carried over into Thursday in spite of late Wednesday's pork cutout price slippage that gnawed at pork packer profit margins.

Spot-October and nearby-December bulls took a chance on those months even though both contracts were at moderately bearish premiums to CME's hog index. Front hog options were also mildly overbought based on their Relative Strength Index conditions.

Cash hog prices initially came in steady. However, subsequent lower midday direct cash hog quotes suggest packers might be focused more on salvaging their sinking margins than on stringing together seemingly ample supplies.

Meanwhile, distant hog futures received an added infusion of support from the Dow Jones Industrial Average upswing, the Chicago Board of Trade corn gains and the U.S. dollar's tumble.

Cash hog prices for Friday are called mostly steady as processors prepare for a Saturday slaughter estimated around 140,000 head.

Packers are also expected to play it close to the vest cash bidwise because of razor-thin profit margins.

And some believe those who have been long the market the past three days might finally decide to pocket profits on Friday as they prepare for the weekend.

October hogs ended up 12 points at 51.02 cents a pound ahead of its Oct. 14 expiration. December closed 177 points higher at 53.52 cents. And February ended 135 points higher at 59.95 cents.

Pork bellies finished sharply higher as well on spillover buying after futures' steep climb on Wednesday, lean hog buying and buy stops.

February bellies also plowed through 20-day moving average resistance.

February pork bellies finished 237 points higher at 84.77 cents a pound. March was unquoted. May ended 180 points higher at 86.80 cents.

Cattle Complex

CME live cattle closed generally higher on buy stops and fund buying. Also, spreaders bought back months and sold forward contracts.

Most live cattle options took the path of least resistance after fund buying that was the feature of Wednesday's futures gains seeped into Thursday's open. December's oversold technical indicator attracted prospective longs.

And U.S. equities' bullishness, CBOT corn's increase and U.S. dollar's pullback whipped up additional live cattle buying interest.

However, spot-October lagged throughout the morning amid worries about deliveries. And uncertainty about cash cattle prices due to lower boxed beef prices and unprofitable beef packer margins kept bullish traders on the defensive.

Overall cash cattle sales so far this week ranged from $80 to $82 per hundredweight with the bulk of trading reported at $81.50. Remaining cattle business is yet to be decided. Fed cattle last week brought mainly $83.

The latest operating margin index for beef packers was minus $22.90 per head, compared with minus $22.20 the previous day, as calculated by

USDA's Thursday afternoon boxed beef data showed choice cuts dropped $1.09 per hundredweight, and select cuts were down $0.49.

Unsold fed cattle anticipation, curiosity about possibly more cattle deliveries and pre-weekend position squaring could become dominant market features on Friday.

Also, spreaders who sold live cattle and bought hogs on Thursday are interested to see how those spreads pan out on Friday.

October live cattle settled down 35 points at 81.87 cents, and December closed up 25 points at 84.32 cents. February closed 62 points higher at 85.45 cents.

Feeder cattle ended higher on buying left over from futures' jump on Wednesday, live cattle support and buy stops.

November's oversold technical signal and front-months' discounts to CME's feeder cattle index emboldened bullish traders.

October feeder cattle settled 62 points higher at 93.97 cents, and November closed 62 points higher at 93.80 cents.

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