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PM markets: Brazil factors help softs outperform grains

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Grains may have struggled on Wednesday, but soft commodities, broadly, gained as they absorbed a cocktail of Brazilian factors.

While grains declined, depressed by more-generous-than-expected supply data in the US Department of Agriculture's monthly Wasde briefing, New York-trade

arabica

coffee

futures added 0.6% to 127.60 cents a pound for September delivery.

The gains were assisted by the tailwind of a strengthening

real

, which added 1.3% against the

dollar

, so boosting the value in dollar terms of assets such as coffee in which Brazil is a major force.

Robusta outperforms

But there were also data from exporters' association Cecafé showing overall Brazilian coffee exports down 13.7% at 1.81m bags last month,

This despite last year's strong coffee harvest – but this was centred on arabica beans, with robusta output remaining drought-depressed.

Indeed, Brazil's

robusta coffee

exports last month were the lowest since 1990, said Cecafe.

London-traded robusta futures added 1.2% to $2,097 a tonne for September delivery.

On the less positive side for arabica beans in particular, Jorge Narvaez, Mexico's vice-minister of agriculture, forecast the country's coffee output tripling over 15 years, with gains seen fuelled by yield improvements.

Sugar sweetens

The stronger Brazilian real also helped

raw sugar

futures for October gain 0.4% to 14.25 cents a pound - helped too by data from Brazilian cane industry group Unica showing output of the sweetener from the country's key Centre South district hitting 2.97m tonnes in the second half of last month.

While representing a rise of 169,000 tonnes on the same period last year, the figure was marginally lower than the 2.995m-tonne production result expected by investors, as polled by S&P Global Platts.

Still, this reflected a weaker cane harvest, down 1.4% year on year at 47.55m tonnes for the fortnight, rather than any predilection by Centre South ills for cutting the proportion of crop turned into sugar rather than ethanol.

Indeed, mills converted 50.5% of cane into sugar, up 0.5 points year on year, and a touch ahead of the 50.4% figure that investors had expected.

'Game changer'

Cocoa

futures ended 0.2% higher at $1,821 a tonne in New York for September delivery, offered some support by a decision by Cote d'Ivoire regulator the Coffee and Cocoa Council to end forward 2017-18 sales of the beans next month, a month earlier than had been expected.

The decision reportedly reflected ideas that flood damage would stem early supplies of the beans in 2017-18, which starts in October.

In fact, softs analyst Judy Ganes-Chase noted that worldwide "there have never been back to back large cocoa crops as typically a strong production increase is followed by a natural setback as the trees rest.

Next season "would be a game changer if production continued strong after a massive jump in output in 2016-17".

'Slightly bearish'

Cotton

futures, however, for December eased by 0.6% to 67.27 cents a pound, after the USDA's Wasde briefing issued a more generous estimate for US supplies of the fibre in 2017-18 than had been expected.

While the USDA did cut its forecast for domestic cotton output by 200,000 bales to 19.0m bales, reflecting a weaker-than-expected sowings figure released two weeks ago, traders had expected a bigger downgrade, to 18.9m bales.

The estimate for the US cotton yield was nudged higher by 6 pounds per acre to 816 pounds per acre.

Meanwhile, US stocks at the close of 2017-18 were pegged at 5.3m bales, a downgrade of 200,000 bales, but ahead of the 5.10m-bale figure investors had expected.

The figures were "slightly bearish" for cotton prices, Rabobank said.

By Mike Verdin

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