Cotton prices continued to consolidate and drift lower during this holiday-shortened week as negative macroeconomic news dominated headlines. Among the bearish news was a cut in the global growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and China’s fourth quarter GDP which slowed to its slowest pace in 24 years. Traders also noted confirmation from China’s National Development and Reform Commission that cotton import quotas in 2015 will be limited to the 4.1 million bales mandated by the World Trade Organization.
Cotton futures turned dramatically lower Tuesday following Monday’s market holiday as contracts made contract lows across the board. March cotton set a fresh life-of-contract low at 57.77 cents per pound before settling at 57.79, down 144 points, and December settled at 62.00 cents, down 104 points. All but one futures contract settled with triple-digit losses at the close of trading with volume at the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) exceeding 36,000 contracts.
Prices recovered a bit during Wednesday’s ICE session as futures opened lower then moved to positive ground and traded in a relatively tight range for the remainder of a rather dull day. It was unclear whether the market found some support or it simply paused to catch its breath. Nearby contracts posted modest gains at the close of trading, and most forward months were slightly lower. March cotton settled 22 points higher at 58.01 cents per pound, May also settled 22 points higher at 58.88, and December cotton lost 3 points to settle at 61.97 cents. One market newsletter noted cotton futures were trading at their lowest level since September 2009.
Futures gave back Wednesday’s gains and then some during Thursday’s ICE session, making fresh lows. March cotton traded as low as 57.58 cents per pound then settled at 57.76, down 25 points. May settled 23 points lower at 58.65, and December lost 26 points to settle at 61.71 cents. Speculative selling was met with trade and fixation buying to limit the downside action.
One clear signal of the market’s bearishness is its failure to react to consecutive marketing-year-high weekly export sales reports. In the latest report for the week ended Jan. 15, net sales of U.S. upland cotton totaled 470,300 bales, according to USDA, up 7 percent from the previous week and 89 percent from the four-week average. China and Vietnam were the top buyers at 174,500 and 158,200 bales, respectively. Export shipments for the week totaled 226,200 bales, down 1 percent from the previous week but up 12 percent from the four-week average. The primary destinations were China, Vietnam, Turkey, and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the spot market slowed as producers sold 41,478 bales online in the week ended Jan. 22, down from 61,043 bales sold online the previous week. Average prices received by producers ranged from 51 to 55 cents per pound compared to 55 to 56 cents the previous week.
In other news, winter weather returned to the Texas High Plains this week as several inches of snow fell on much of the region. The conditions will further delay any harvesting that remains to be completed. Reports this week indicated yield and quality were lower in the late-harvested cotton.