After dropping to a low of 74.72 cents last Friday, the market has been able to climb back to the 77 cents level. However, we should not read too much into this week’s action, since trading volume has been light between 9’000 and 14’000 contracts and open interest has barely changed since last Thursday.
This tells us that there is currently no momentum in the market and that the positive price action we have seen over the last four sessions was probably due to a lack of selling rather than any strong buying, as potential sellers were hesitant to go short with Hurricane Isaac moving up the Delta and with soybeans posting all-time highs.
Hurricane Isaac made landfall as a category 1 storm on Tuesday night, bringing torrential rainfall to the southern Delta. From a cotton perspective Louisiana is probably the state that was most affected by the high winds and heavy rain, while we don’t expect to see too much damage in Mississippi and Arkansas.
The overall impact from this storm on the US cotton crop should be minimal, because Louisiana only produces around 400’000 bales or just over 2 percent of total output. However, this hurricane serves a reminder that the crop is still vulnerable to adverse weather and we therefore don’t expect trade selling to intensify until harvest is well under way.
Business has remained relatively slow as mills seem to be in no hurry to buy more than what they absolutely need. US export sales for the week ending August 23 amounted to just 98’900 running bales of Upland and Pima for both marketing years, with shipments totaling 167’500 running bales. Total commitments for the season are now at 4.7 million statistical bales, of which just 0.5 million bales have so far been exported.
Compared to last season, sales are running about 2.3 million bales behind at this point. As we have pointed out before, the fate of US exports depends to a large degree on China’s willingness to import sizeable amounts of cotton this season, despite its large stockpiles.
So far commitments to China amount to some 1.7 million statistical bales, just slightly less than the 1.9 million bales we had on the books a year ago. However, the odds for China to release additional import quotas for the rest of the calendar year are not great. China seems to be willing to auction off 300’000 tons of its strategic reserve at a price of 18’500 yuan/ton, or around 133 cents/lb.
This cotton apparently consists of Xinjiang 2011/12 crop, which the Reserve bought at a support price of 19’800 yuan/ton last season. Although the amount to be sold is not huge at 1.38 million statistical bales, it marks a significant departure from the past, because it is the first time that reserve stocks are being released at a loss.
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