DTN Cotton Close: Bounces to Finish Mostly Slightly Higher

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    Crude oil plunged. Higher U.S. cotton exports expected to drop ending stocks. World carryout outside China expected to be closely watched. Weekly export sales expected to slow from crop year high.

    Cotton futures finished narrowly ahead in contracts beyond maturing March Wednesday as traders awaited twin reports from USDA.

    Benchmark May eked up six points to close at 78.09 cents, slightly above the midpoint of its tight 68-point range from down 42 points at 77.61 to up 26 points at 78.29 cents. It bounced after slipping just below the prior-session low.

    March settled down 38 points to 76.90 cents on its next-to-last trading day. July closed up four points at 79.03 cents after slipping to a three-session low. December finished up 17 points to 75.45 cents, a new contract high close by a single point over Monday’s settlement and five points shy of its contract peak set Monday and matched Tuesday.

    Crude oil plunged to $50.30, lowest since Nov. 30, and traded down $2.79 or 5.3% at $50.35 after federal data showed the U.S. surplus hit a fresh record last week. Most commodities were in the red. May corn closed down 1%, May soybeans 0.3%, May Chicago wheat 2.1% and May Kansas City wheat 1.4%.

    Cotton volume slowed to an estimated 22,249 lots from 31,904 lots the previous session when spreads accounted for 11,416 lots or 36%, EFS 2,108 lots and EFP 65 lots. Options volume rose to 6,519 lots — 5,089 calls and 1,430 puts — from 5,403 lots.

    Expectations are for another increase in U.S. exports and a decrease in ending stocks in USDA’s monthly 2016-17 supply-demand estimates, scheduled for release at 11 a.m. CST on Thursday.

    No adjustment is generally expected in the U.S. production estimate until after USDA reviews the end-of-season ginning report, also scheduled for release Thursday. Final crop figures will be released in May.

    Classing figures indicate the crop has exceeded the last estimate of 16.96 million bales, up 32% from last season. Classing of late-ginned cotton is continuing in the Southwest. The report Thursday will include an estimate of the cotton remaining to be ginned.

    Some analysts expect the export estimate to be raised around 300,000 bales. The current estimate of 12.7 million bales is up from 10.5 million initially projected last May and from 11.5 million foreseen at the start of the marketing year in August.

    This would be expected to result in a corresponding reduction in ending stocks, currently estimated at 4.8 million bales, if domestic mill use remains unchanged at 3.3 million bales and there is no crop revision.

    Globally, some analysts look for slightly lower production and a bit higher consumption. The estimate of ending stocks outside China is expected to be closely watched. Those were projected last month at 41.05 million bales, up 2.42 million bales from the beginning inventory.

    Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal on average put the crop at 16.99 million bales, exports at 12.96 million and ending stocks at 4.59 million. The ranges were 16.78 million to 17.3 million bales for the crop, 12.8 million to 13.2 million for exports and 4.4 million to 4.7 million for ending stocks. The survey didn’t include domestic mill use.

    Weekly export sales for shipment this season, set for release at 7:30 a.m. CST on Thursday, are expected to slow from the torrid marketing year high of 481,400 running bales of upland registered for the prior week ended Feb. 23.

    Upland sales the last four reporting weeks have totaled a rounded 1.279 million RB for an average of 319,700 RB and upland shipments have totaled 1.457 million RB for an average of 364,200 RB.

    Futures open interest fell 1,634 lots Tuesday to 273,357, suggesting that long liquidation or some profit-taking figured in the price decline ahead of the USDA reports. Open interest had jumped 5,245 lots on Monday’s rally.

    March’s OI dropped eight lots Tuesday to 21, May’s fell 1,986 lots to 161,413, July’s slipped 913 lots to 51,011 and December’s rose by 1,165 lots to 53,356. Cert stocks increased 176 bales to 325,597.

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