Softs - sugar regains strength, coffee higher with Brazil crops in focus

CommoditiesAug 29, 2012 07:45AM ET - U.S. soft futures were mostly higher during early U.S. morning trade on Wednesday, with sugar prices coming off the lowest level since early June as investors returned to the market to seek cheap valuations.

On the ICE Futures U.S. Exchange, sugar futures for October delivery traded at USD0.2036 a pound, climbing 1.05%.

The October contract rose by as much as 1.75% earlier to hit a session high of USD0.2039 a pound, the strongest level since August 21.

Prices slumped to an 11-week low of USD0.1946 a pound on Tuesday, before turning higher to end the session with a 3% gain.

Despite recent gains, sentiment on the sweetener was likely to remain downbeat in the short-term after Brazil’s top sugar industry group Unica said last week that sugar output in Brazil’s Center South region rose 14% in the first half of August.

Sugar production rose to 3.02 million metric tons between August 1 and August 15 from 2.66 million tons a year earlier. Sugar-cane growers harvested 44.2 million tons in the period, up 14% from 38.7 million tons a year earlier.

Sugar prices rallied to a four-month high in mid-July, as fears that heavy rains in Brazil could damage sugarcane crops in the country’s center-south region boosted sentiment on the sweetener.

But the sweetener has lost nearly 15% since hitting USD0.2398 a pound on July 20, as beneficial weather conditions improved crop prospects throughout the region.

Brazil’s center south-region produces nearly 90% of the nation’s sugar. The South American country is the world’s largest sugar producer and exporter, with the USDA estimating the nation accounts for nearly 20% of global production and 39% of global sugar exports.

Meanwhile, Arabica coffee for December delivery traded at USD1.6868 a pound, gaining 0.4%. The December contract rose to a session high of USD1.6912 a pound earlier, the strongest level since August 9.

Prices hit a seven-week low of USD1.5740 a pound on August 17, but have been trending higher ever since.

Despite recent gains, signs of weakening global demand persist, with exchange stocks hitting a fresh two-year high of 1.92 million bags.

Coffee prices, like sugar, have been under pressure in recent weeks, as receding concerns over the impact of adverse weather conditions on crops in key growing regions in Brazil dampened the appeal of the commodity.

Coffee futures have lost approximately 12% since hitting a four-month high of USD1.9215 a pound on July 11.  

Brazil is the world’s largest producer and exporter of Arabica coffee. Arabica is grown mainly in Latin America and brewed by specialty companies.

Elsewhere, cotton futures for October delivery traded at USD0.7534 a pound, adding 0.75%. The front-month contract was stuck in a tight trading range of USD0.7484 a pound, the daily low and a session high of USD0.7549.

Cotton traders monitored tropical storm activity in the southern U.S. states, amid concerns over a disruption to supplies from the region.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday that the Category-1 hurricane hit the coast of southeast Louisiana as it made landfall. The center expects the storm to move northwest later Wednesday.  

In its weekly crop progress report published earlier in the week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that nearly 43% of the U.S. cotton crop was in ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ condition as of August 26, up 2% from a week earlier.

In the major producing state of Texas, only 23% of the cotton crop was seen as in ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ health, compared to 22% recorded in the preceding week.

The fiber is down almost 65% from a record high of USD2.1970 a pound in March 2011, as higher prices prompted farmers to plant more crops and demand in top consumer China slowed.

Softs - sugar regains strength, coffee higher with Brazil crops in focus

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