CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Chicago Mercantile Exchange hogs settled mostly firm Friday on short covering, steady-to-higher cash hog quotes and buy stops.

February pork bellies, the only contract that traded, closed higher. Live and feeder cattle finished lower.

Lean hogs climbed at the start, driven by Thursday's board rally that carried over into Friday. Late Thursday's considerable pork cutout jump and technically oversold October and December provided added front-month lift.

October nearly reached a one-month high, and December cracked the 20-day moving average barrier, before buying was replaced by nervous sellers as the session wore on.

While short-term market bulls were encouraged by Thursday's pork cutout surge and Friday's cash hog price increase, they were leery about how both fundamentals will perform as the Labor Day holiday approaches.

Mostly steady cash hog bids are forecast for Monday as packers balance their need for supplies against pre-holiday fresh pork buying demand.

A volatile day of trading may be in store Monday as market participants settle their business affairs on the final trading day for the month of August.

February pork bellies closed 70 points higher at 76.50 cents a pound on short covering, buy stops and lean hogs' modest rise.

Late Thursday's steady fresh belly quote and February's oversold chart condition contributed to the contract's Friday rebound.

October hogs ended up 17 points at 48.07 cents a pound, and December closed up 25 points at 46.45 cents.

Cattle Complex

CME live cattle closed lower on spot August positioning before its Aug. 31 expiration, sell stops and spreading of October into deferred cattle months.

Live cattle contracts at first opened flat to firm on buying after Thursday's mild futures' gains, profitable beef packer margins and higher-than-anticipated cash cattle returns.

Cash-basis cattle this week fetched $83 to $85 per hundredweight, compared with $83 to mostly $83.50 last week.

The latest operating margin index for beef packers was plus $51.45 per head, compared with plus $57.25 the previous day, as calculated by

However, initial buying quickly fizzled around the same time U.S. equities began to sag and as Chicago Board of Trade corn futures floundered in negative trading territory during the session.

August live cattle later violated 10- and 40-day moving average support levels, but held above the 20-day moving average support floor. October almost drifted to a 2 1/2- month bottom after the contract slipped beneath Thursday's low.

Month-end position squaring is expected Monday. And, traders will watch late Friday CME information for possible deliveries before August's Monday expiration at 1 p.m. EDT.

Feeder cattle finished lower on residual selling after Thursday's slight declines, live cattle's pullback and sell stops. Traders also sold feeder cattle and bought live cattle on spreads.

And, deferred-month cattle buyers were put off by back-month feeders' premiums to CME's feeder cattle index.

August live cattle closed 52 points lower at 84.65 cents a pound, and October finished 87 points lower at 86.70 cents.

September feeder cattle settled down 67 points at 98.15 cents, and October ended 92 points lower at 98.05 cents.

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