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NY cotton futures move slightly higher over holiday period
Jan '14
The market tested and successfully held the important 82 cents support level when it briefly dipped to an intra-day low of 81.42 cents on December 23rd. By holding support the market managed to attract additional spec buying, which prompted it to rally above 85 cents in the last four sessions, although its highest close has so far been 84.66 cents on December 27.

The CFTC report as of December 24 revealed that speculators continued to expand their net long position by another 4’617 contracts to around 2.8 million bales net, while Index traders added 3’134 lots to their net long position for a total of 6.7 million bales. The trade is as usual on the other side of the ledger with a rather large 9.5 million bales net short position, after adding another 7’751 contracts during the week before Christmas.

A part of this large trade net short position seems to be tied to the sizeable amount of unfixed on-call sales, which as of December 27 amounted to 54’731 contracts or about 5.5 million bales, of which nearly 5.0 million bales are based on current crop March, May and July futures.

Mills continue to secure supplies at a rapid pace as evidenced by the latest US export sales report, yet many of them are deciding to leave the price open, hoping for the market to give them an opportunity to fix at a lower level.

Merchants who make these on-call sales to mills often sell futures to lock in the price and eventually these short futures will have to be bought back when mills are ready to fix the price. This often turns into a ‘catch-22’ for mills, because these large on-call positions build strong underlying support that prevents prices from falling, and when too many of these mills procrastinate with their fixations, it can cause the market to rally.

There is another bullish component to all this on-call business. By buying on-call rather than fixed price, mills tend to buy larger quantities, which in turn makes for impressive US export sales reports. This explains why higher futures prices have so far been unable to deter demand in any significant manner.

US export sales for the week that ended on December 19, during which March futures traded between 82.34 to 83.72 cents, still amounted to a rather strong 230’200 running bales for the current season and 20’700 bales for the next marketing year.

Once again there were a total of 19 different markets participating in the buying, which shows that there is still broad-based demand for US cotton. Total commitments for the season now amount to 7.5 million statistical bales, of which 2.9 million bales have so far been exported.

A news story out of China kept traders busy over the holidays, as it was reported that the government would stop stockpiling commodities such as cotton or soybeans and instead support farmers with direct subsidies. While such a policy change has been widely anticipated by the trade, it nevertheless sparked some debate as to what the impact on global cotton prices might be.

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