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NY cotton futures trade sideways this week
Aug '14
New York cotton futures traded sideways this week, as December moved up 65 points to close at 64.67 cents.

Since trading at a low of 62.02 cents on August 1, trading has turned a lot more two-sided, as new trade buying has emerged and speculators are no longer selling as aggressively as they have been for so many weeks.

Last week’s CFTC report showed that the trade bought 5,260 contracts net between July 30 and August 5, while speculators and index funds were on the other side.

As a result the trade reduced its net short position in the futures market to just 3.9 million bales, which is exactly ten million bales less than a year ago.

In fact, the current trade is the lowest since at least 2007, when the CFTC started to report trade and index fund net long positions separately.

In the previous seven seasons, the trade averaged a net short position of over 10.9 million bales in early August, ranging from 7.7 to 15.2 million bales.

One possible explanation for this unusually low trade net short is that old crop supplies are basically committed and new crop is still mostly in grower hands.

The uncertain US crop outlook that prevailed until late May, coupled with the steep inversion that existed between July and December, seems to have hindered forward contracting between growers and merchants.

Then, with the market crashing in June and July, growers fell even further behind in selling or hedging their crops.

With old crop all but gone and new crop not readily available, merchants are running much smaller short positions in New York and this situation could persist until growers are finally willing to relinquish their cotton to merchants.

At these depressed prices, this is not likely to happen anytime soon and at least not while the crop is still in the field. This means that one may see a bottleneck situation develop in the fourth quarter, as limited supplies in the marketing channels force buyers to pay up in order to free up cotton.

This week’s USDA report played right into this scenario, as beginning stocks in the rest of the world (ROW) were lowered by 700,000 bales from last month. ROW inventories of 38.55 million bales on August 1, 2014 were 1.12 million bales less than a year ago.

The US is singlehandedly responsible for this drop, since its beginning stocks fell by 1.3 million bales to just 2.6 million bales, which ties with the 2011/12-season for the lowest stock number in 22 years.

The USDA report is a tale of two vastly different ROW supply scenarios, during the transition from a rather tight 2013/14-season to a much more accommodative current crop outlook.

According to the USDA, the 2014/15-season is expected to produce a surplus of 12.04 million bales in ROW, which will only partially be absorbed by Chinese imports of 8.0 million bales. This in turn should raise ROW ending stocks by 4.17 million bales, from 38.55 million bales to 42.72 million bales.

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