ICE cotton up on planting delays, U.S. data, post weekly gain

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* Fiber up 2.3 pct for week, first weekly gain since March

* Some 26,000 bales erroneously listed in certified stocks – ICE

* Open interest climbs for 4th straight session

NEW YORK, May 3 (Reuters) – Cotton futures rose on Friday to post their first weekly gain since March, as U.S. plantings delays prompted worry over upcoming supplies and as stronger-than-expected U.S. government economic data supported commodities and financial markets.

The most-active July cotton contract on ICE Futures U.S. rose 0.75 cent, or 0.9 percent, to settle at 86.43 cents per pound.

Prices rose 2.3 percent since last Friday’s close, the second-month contract’s first weekly gain in five weeks, as four days of gains outweighed a Wednesday rout that sent cotton down more than 4 percent during a broad commodities selloff.

The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB, a benchmark for global commodities, gained and U.S. stocks rose, as U.S. government data on jobs surpassed expectations. Employment gains could translate to higher consumer demand for products, including apparel, supporting cotton prices.

Heavy rains in key growing regions of the United States prompted worry over plantings delays and pushed corn toward a steep weekly gain.

While a smaller corn crop could ultimately mean more acres for cotton, which competes in some regions of the United States with more lucrative corn and soybeans, delays to cotton plantings could strain the current year’s supplies if they need to extend far past the crop year-end in July, traders said.

“The cold weather has people worried. Will they ever get the crop in?” said Peter Egli, director of risk management for Plexus Cotton Ltd, a British-based medium-sized merchant.

Exchange stocks totaled 495,064 bales on Thursday, down from 519,234 bales during the previous session, ICE data showed.

Some 26,057 bales had been incorrectly listed as “new certs” and removed from the certified stocks data, ICE said in a notice on its website.

A delay to the data on Thursday had prompted some uncertainty in the marketplace.

U.S. weekly export sales continued at a steady pace, according to U.S. government export data on Thursday, which put overall sales in the week ending April 25 at the highest since mid-January and sales to China at the highest since September.

China, the world’s largest textile market, is forecast to hold more than half of record global stocks by the end of July, though much of what China holds is considered unavailable to the global marketplace.

China began building its state reserves in 2011, paying above-global prices to support farmers.

The situation has created a sense of tightening global supplies outside of China, helping to underpin a rally of about 18 percent during the first quarter of the year.

Speculators were the main driver of the first-quarter surge, boosting their bullish bets in cotton futures and options to a five-year high in March.

As they began to dial back that investment in recent weeks, prices have slumped from a one-year high of nearly 94 cents touched by the front-month contract on March 15.

The May contract on ICE, due to expire on May 8, settled up 0.89 cent, or 1.1 percent, at 84.72 cents a lb on Friday.

Open interest totaled 167,661 contracts on Thursday, up by 648 from the previous day and higher for a fourth straight session after falling to the lowest level since December. (Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: Reuters

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