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Cotton futures - will they beat China fears to post 2015 gains?

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Cotton proved one of the worst performing agricultural commodities of 2014, with benchmark New York futures falling 29% to their weakest year-end level since 2008.

Values were undermined by large global inventories, which appear more of a burden now that China, where most of them are stored, has in revising its subsidy system taken steps to reverse the stockpiling prompted by the previous regime of offering growers guaranteed prices.

However, futures, while touching a five-year low of 57.84 cents a pound in November, proved reluctant to stay below 60 cents a pound for long.

Does this resistance to downward movement herald a recovery? Or have futures found only a temporary price floor?


"Global production in 2014-15 has been revised further and further up.

"The largest increase in production comes from the US, where in the wake of a massive expansion of acreage the harvest will probably increase by more than one fourth.

"This will offset lower production in several other countries, mainly in China, where the cultivated area was further reduced.

"China nonetheless determines sentiment on the cotton market. The fact is that China's cotton imports already declined sharply in 2013-14 and that in 2014-5 the import volume is only expected to reach one third of the levels seen in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

"Given the unsatisfactory price development of -30% since the start of the year – which was much more marked than the falls in corn, wheat or soybeans – a reduction of the acreage for the next US harvest seems likely.

"In the Southern Hemisphere, limitations are to be expected even sooner. Only when the focus shifts to this fact, and an end of the period of numerous surpluses on the cotton market becomes likely, do we expect prices to recover."

International Cotton Advisory Committee

"Low cotton prices [are] a long-term problem.


2014-15: 72 cents a pound

Price: season average, Cotlook A index

"However, the volume of ending stocks would represent 87% of the projected consumption in 2014-15, and is weighing heavily on prices this season.

"Even assuming reasonably lower production and higher consumption in the next few years, it will take several seasons for the significant volume of stocks to reach a more sustainable level, and low cotton prices are likely to persist while the market adjusts."

Morgan Stanley

"Global cotton prices remain beholden to Chinese reserve policy decisions with cotton prices likely to remain near current levels until the country's import demand slows.

"After that point, we expect a global production surplus of as much as 10m bales should pull prices well below global cost of production."


"Cotton futures are expected to remain subdued through the first half of 2015, as China's 2014-15 imports slow to 8.5m bales.

"Futures are expected to find mild support through the second half of the year, at 73 cents a pound in the fourth quarter, as the 2015-16 marketing year comments, and ending stocks decline for the first time in six seasons to below 100m bales.

"Northern hemisphere harvested area is expected to decline 4% in 2015-16, while southern hemisphere area contracts a further 3% year on year.

"Cotton consumption is projected to rise 6% year on year in 2014-15, as lower and more competitive prices support cotton textile blends.

"However, the subdued outlook for crude oil prices, and the associated declining costs of man-made fibre production, limit the extent of cotton's competitiveness against alternate fibres."

Societe Generale

"We continue to see cotton prices as undervalued.

Societe Generale cotton price forecasts, 2015

Q1: 65.00 cents a pound

Q2: 68.95 cents a pound

Q3: 64.31 cents a pound

Q4: 65.42 cents a pound

Prices: quarter average, front New York futures contract

"Our higher-than-consensus US GDP outlook adds additional support, as consumers there are expected to increase spending on improving labour conditions, primarily on higher wage growth.

"As demand for products builds, and given the steep rout in cotton prices that we view as overdone, we expect cotton prices to begin rising before settling into the 65-70 cents-a-pound range."

US Department of Agriculture

"US ending stocks [for 2014-15] are now forecast at 4.6m bales, more than 2m bales above the beginning level.

"Both the stocks and the stocks-to-use ratio - estimated at 33% -would be the highest since 2008-09.

"Based on the latest supply and demand outlook for 2014-15, the average upland cotton farm price is now forecast to range between 59-64 cents per pound, compared with the final 2013-14 price of 77.9 cents per pound."


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