April 3, 2014
Nearby cotton futures contracts at the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) were locked in a downward spiral this week with May and July cotton taking the greatest hit. Both contracts settled with modest losses Monday of 22 and 6 points, respectively.
May cotton settled at 93.52 cents per pound and July was at 93.55 cents following the release of USDA's March planting intentions report which predicted U.S. farmers will plant 11.10 million acres of cotton this year, up 694,000 acres from last year. The figure is slightly less than the National Cotton Council's estimate of 11.24 million and the annual Ag Outlook Forum's estimate of 11.50 million acres. However, some traders and analysts said the report was inconsequential because it was within the range of most expectations.
"I can't remember when a USDA planting intentions report was as unanticipated as today's," one analyst said. "Traders continue to be preoccupied with the old crop supply constraints and inversions facing us as we head toward first notice day for the May (futures contract) on April 24," he added. "Quite obviously, the controlling factors will be the weather and prices," another analyst commented.
The retreat continued Tuesday as all 2014 futures contracts at ICE settled on negative ground. May cotton dipped below 92 cents during the session before settling at 92.07 cents, down 145 points. July settled 105 points lower at 92.50 cents, and December was down 13 points at 79.87. At least one bearish fundamental for the cotton market may have come from China.
Tuesday was the first day of a lower minimum bidding price for cotton auctioned from the country's strategic reserves. The action seemed to spur demand as almost 80 percent of cotton made available was purchased. Additional bearish news was contained in a news release from the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) regarding the price of cotton versus that of polyester.
"In 2013/14, the Cotlook A Index has averaged 90 cents per pound while polyester in China averaged 73 (cents)," ICAC reported. "However, in March 2014, the price of polyester in China dropped below 70 cents per pound, to about 66 cents, while the Cotlook A Index has averaged about 97 cents. Given the substantial cost difference, cotton's share of the market is expected to continue its decline this season."
Cotton prices at ICE resumed their retreat Wednesday with May settling 56 points lower at 91.51 cents per pound and July settling at 91.97, down 53. December futures, however, managed to stay within its previous day's range and settled at 79.71 cents per pound, down 16 points. Thursday's ICE session was almost a carbon copy of the previous day as May lost another 53 points at the close of trading to settle at 90.98 cents. July cotton settled 72 points lower at 91.25 cents, and December settled at 79.44, down 27 points.
In other news, slow demand for U.S. cotton was apparent in USDA's latest export report. The department reported net upland sales of just 42,700 bales in the week ended March 27, down 36 percent from the previous week and 49 percent from the four-week average. Taiwan, China and Japan were the featured buyers. Net sales for delivery in the 2014-15 marketing year totaled 71,500 bales, and Turkey, Thailand and Pakistan were the featured buyers. Export shipments for the week totaled 246,700 bales, down 5 percent from the previous week and 19 percent from the four-week average. Primary destinations were Turkey, China, Indonesia, and Japan.
In the spot market, producers sold 2,408 bales online in the week ended April 3, up from 1,548 bales the previous week. Average prices received ranged from 72 to 85 cents per pound.