* Dealings slow as trade awaits leads
NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Cotton futures ended with small gains Monday as steady mill buying supported contracts and the pace of purchases should continue to keep the market supported, analysts said.
Benchmark May cotton on ICE Futures U.S. gained 0.52 cents to finish at 90.67 cents per lb, trading from 89.74 to 91.34 cents. The market was well supported above last week’s low near 89 cents.
Spot March cotton went up 0.55 cent to settle at 90.40 cents per lb. The March contract will expire on March 8.
Volume traded Monday stood near 13,000 lots, preliminary Thomson Reuters data showed.
Mike Stevens, an independent analyst in Louisiana, said cotton values have declined “to a level where business is going on” and this seems enough to keep values from falling out of bed.
The market took note of news that cotton speculators reduced for the third week running the net long position by 1,005 lots in the market to 2,170 contracts.
The market will be looking toward the release on Thursday of the weekly export sales report to gauge if fiber demand will remain robust.
Last week, the U.S. Agriculture Department showed weekly cotton export sales of 185,200 running bales (RBs, 500-lbs each). Cotton export shipments were robust at 326,200 RBs, which exceeds the average amount needed to meet USDA’s current projections for the 2011/12 crop year.
Open interest in cotton, an indicator of investor exposure, rose slightly to 171,093 lots as of Feb. 24, from the previous session’s 170,057 lots as of Feb. 23, ICE Futures U.S. data showed.
(Reporting by Rene Pastor)