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By Edward Faubert

Coffee

Coffee 4Q2013

Coffee prices declined during the past three months. Prices as measured by the ICE futures contract (KC) finished the fourth quarter at $1.11 a pound, down 6 cents, or 5 percent.

According to the latest USDA report, total world production of coffee for the 2013/14 year ending Sept. 30 is projected at 150.4 million 60-kg bags. Of the two largest producers, Brazil is expected to produce 53.1 million bags (down marginally), and Vietnam 28.5 million bags (up 9 percent). Total world demand is expected to be 144.4 million bags. The USDA estimates total world year-end coffee stocks to rise to 36.3 million bags, the highest level in five years.

ICE-certified stocks have increased as well. Although new certifications have slowed to a trickle over the past six months, the total ICE certified stock position currently stands at 2.72 million bags compared with 2.57 million bags a year ago.

The market has been in a long-term downtrend and reached 4 ½-year lows in early November. For all of 2013, coffee prices have declined by 47 cents a pound and traversed a range of 54 cents. The yearly high was made at $1.58 a pound in mid-January and the low of $1.04 a pound was made at the beginning of November.

Money managers have been gradually reducing their net short positions and are currently net short 9,600 lots compared with net short 23,800 lots three months earlier.

Cocoa

Cocoa 4Q2013

The clear outperformer of the group, faced many oversupply issues. Cocoa prices as measured by the ICE futures contract (CC), rose during the fourth quarter to settle at $2,709 a ton, up $72 a ton, or 3 percent over the past three months.

According to the International Cocoa Organization, year-end stocks as of Sept. 30, 2013, were 1.67 tons, down from 1.83 tons a year earlier. More importantly, stock drawdowns are expected to continue as a result of increasing demand.

Grindings, which approximate consumption, rose on an annualized basis in the third quarter by 5 percent in Europe and 8 percent in the U.S. Strong demand is expected to continue, aided by a general economic recovery in North America and Europe, and increasing demand from emerging markets, especially India.

Production also declined during the year ending Sept. 30, 2013, as a result of lower yields from West Africa. With West Africa producing 70 percent of total world production, any political disturbance or adverse weather could tip the balance even more quickly into larger deficits. Some traders are currently projecting supply deficits will remain for the next three to four years.

During 2013, cocoa prices rose by $473 a ton, or 21 percent. The low for the year was made in early March at $2,046 a ton, while the yearly high was made in early December at $2,840 a ton, representing a range of $794 a ton.

Money managers are big believers in the cocoa market. They have continued to add to their long positions and are currently net long 81,600 lots compared with net long 63,700 lots three months earlier.

Cotton

Cotton 4Q 2013

Cotton prices as measured by the ICE futures No. 2 contract (CT) finished the fourth quarter at 84.64 cents a pound, down 2.34 cents a pound, or 1 percent.

In its latest report, the USDA projects that global cotton stocks will continue to rise during the 2013/14 season ending Sept. 30, for the fourth consecutive year, to a record high of 96.4 million 480-pound bales.

Global stock growth has been profoundly influenced by Chinese government policy, which has supported prices and insulated stocks from the market through a national reserve purchase initiative.

Chinese government reserves have jumped from 42 percent of global stocks in 2011/12 to an estimated 59 percent of current world stocks. The Chinese government is replacing the reserve purchase initiative with a producer subsidy program.

The USDA expects global trade in cotton to decline this year by 16 percent, attributable almost entirely to a decrease in import activity from China, which is anticipated will bring internal stocks more in line with usage.

For the year, cotton prices are up 9.5 cents a pound, or 12 percent. The high for the year was made in early March at 93.93 cents a pound. The low for the year was made in late November at 73.79 cents a pound, representing a range of 20.14 cents.

Money managers have reduced their long positions for the second quarter in a row to net long 37,400 lots compared with net long 41,300 lots three months earlier and net long 51,700 six months earlier.

Sugar

Sugar 4Q 2013

Sugar prices as measured by the ICE futures NY 11 contract (SB) finished down on the quarter to settle at 16.41 cents a pound, off 1.73 cents, or 9 percent.

In its latest estimate, the USDA projects global sugar production to outpace demand, albeit at a slower pace. For the 2013/14 crop year ending Sept. 30, the USDA continues to estimate total world production at 175 million tons, a new record. Consumption is projected at 167 million tons, and global ending stocks are expected to be 5 million tons higher, at 43 million tons.

For all of 2013, prices have declined by 3.10 cents a pound, or 16 percent. Sugar prices spent most of the year declining except for a brief six-week rally that began in early September on eventually unfounded concerns over production in Brazil's Center South district.

The rally ran out of steam by mid-October and prices have eroded since then. The high for the year was made in mid-October during the rally at 20.16 cents a pound, and the low was made in mid-December at 15.86 cents a pound, representing a range of 4.30 cents.

Money managers have reversed positions and are currently net short 23,200 lots compared with net long 52,300 three months earlier.

Individual ETFs are available for:

Coffee: The Dow Jones-UBS Coffee ETN issued by Barclay iPath (NYSEARCA:JO) and Café Pure Beta Coffee ETN also issued by Barclay iPath (NYSEARCA:CAFE).

Cocoa: The Dow Jones-AIG Cocoa Subindex (NYSEARCA:NIB) and the iPath Pure Beta Cocoa ETN (NYSEARCA:CHOC).

Cotton: The iPath Dow Jones-UBS Cotton Total Return Sub Index (NYSEARCA:BAL) and the iPath Pure Beta Cotton (NYSEARCA:CTNN).

Sugar: The Dow Jones-AIG Sugar Total Return Sub Index (NYSEARCA:SGG) the iPath Pure Beta Sugar (NYSEARCA:SGAR) and the Teucrium Sugar Fund (NYSEARCA:CANE).

All are based on futures contracts.

Source: Low Inventories Buoy Cocoa; Growing Stocks Weigh On Coffee, Cotton And Sugar