Cleveland: Cotton Bulls Enjoy a Solid Week

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Excellent demand, supported by another solid performance of the 82-84 cent technical price support level provided a very positive week for the cotton bulls.  Rocked by panic selling earlier in the week, and down more than 300 points, both old crop and new crop prices rebounded even in the face of a significant increase in the value of the U.S. dollar. Prices were also supported by the first weather scare of the planting season across the water soaked Mid-South and Southeast. While those regions are considerably behind with plantings, growers have an adequate amount of equipment to plant the entire crop in little more than a week if necessary.  

Net export sales of U.S. cotton totaled more than 411,500 bales with Upland sales for 2012/13 delivery at 314,400 RB, Upland sales for 2014 delivery of 87,500 RB and Pima sales of 9,600 RB. Export shipments for the week were a very healthy 364,700 RB and will pressure USDA to again look at increasing its estimate of 13.0 million bales much closer to 13.3 million. With prices on the defensive the prior three weeks exports sales have boomed. 

The A-Index is approaching 95 cents and likely will ease higher as China continues to be a major buyer of U.S. cotton. December will tend to move higher given the current planting schedule, and that assumes growers in both the Mid-South and Southeast will accomplish their respective plantings on schedule, i.e., by the third or fourth week in May. Historically, we have been told that the Mid-South needs to be in by the third week in May. However, several Mid-South states established record yields with some of the latest-planted crops. 

Yet, the key cotton production now lies within the borders of Texas, Georgia and North Carolina. Georgia, where cotton research was put on hold for three years in the 1970s, now has more cotton than the Delta states – where historically “Cotton is King” – combined! Technology is absolutely amazing. Three bales now grow where only one was produced in the past, and world consumers demand more cotton year by year. However, the vast dryland area of Texas is home to the major U.S. acreage and that region will ultimately determine the size of the U.S. crop. Yet, it continues to be locked in what weather forecasters predicted three years ago to be in a 5 to 10 year drought cycle. Most laughed at that, because of innate optimism, but the presence and persistence of cycles cannot be ignored. 

Open interest increased at week’s end for the first time in 18 trading sessions.  This, in conjunction of the strong export sales and the solid price support that has proven itself numerous times, bodes well for the market to make another run to high 80s—low 90s. However, the normal Memorial Day weekend rains in West Texas would take a bit of luster out of the market. Nevertheless, it will take more than that to wash away the 82-84 cent support level.

Cleveland is a Professor Emeritus, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University.
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