PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 20:49 UK, 20th Dec 2010, by Agrimoney.com
'Tightness' fears send sugar price to 29-year high

Sugar futures set a fresh 29-year high, boosted by a "continuing perception of nearby tightness" in supplies, and on a firm day for many food commodities as an expected selling wave failed to appear.

Prices of many soft commodities rose on Monday, helped by some crop specific factors with Ivory Coast unrest helping cocoa add 2% at one point - and by an apparent reluctance among investors to undertake an end-of-year liquidation of positions that the market had been expecting.

"We are now more than half the way through December, not far from Christmas, and the sell-off has yet to appear," a London farm futures trader told Agrimoney.com.

"There is now increasing thought that maybe speculators will stick around after all."

Latest regulatory data on positions on US crop futures showed speculators increasing positions in cocoa, coffee and sugar, and staying stable in cotton.

'Strong structure'

However, sugar showed particular gains, as a buying wave which was met with large offers of the sweetener on Friday, met less resistance in early deals on Monday.

New York's March lot jumped 3.1% to 33.50 cents a pound, the highest for a spot contract since January 1981.

And while profit-taking set in, the market was still supported by factors including soft prospects for Indian exports, and a postponement of decision by the European Union on plans to lift the region's export quota by 350,000 tonnes. The contract back finished at 32.96 cents a pound, up 1.4% on the day.

"The latest rally comes in the teeth of dollar strength and reflects the continuing perception of nearby tightness," Thomas Kujawa, at Sucden Financial, said.

"Coming up to the holiday season and the end of the financial year, there may be book squaring and long liquidation which may cause the occasional correction.

"However, the structure of both markets continues to be strong and any retracement may prove to be short lived."

'Rather unsettling' 

Commerzbank analysts also cited the impact of rains which are set to continue in Queensland, the top sugar production state in Australia, the world's third largest exporter of the sweetener, and of a hangover from dry conditions in top-ranked Brazil.

"Too dry conditions are casting a shadow over the next harvest," the bank said, terming as "not surprising" sugar's price rise on Monday.

"Furthermore, the fact that more than half of the sugarcane for the next harvest is already in its fourth year and will therefore probably be quite low in yield is also rather unsettling."

Also in New York, cotton closed 2.7% higher at 154.12 cents a pound for March, the maximum allowed by exchange limits.

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