orange juice futures

orange juice futures

July 29th, 2014

Orange-juice futures slumped to a five-month low on Tuesday as weak demand for the beverage trumped fears of a hurricane damaging Florida’s next crop.

Frozen, concentrated orange juice for delivery in September fell 2.2% to $1.4475 a pound, the lowest closing price since Feb. 19 on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange.

A disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean shows a 70% chance of tropical cyclone formation in the next 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service. Usually, that kind of news boosts the orange-juice market, as previous hurricanes that have hit top orange-producing state Florida have damaged groves and ripped fruit from the trees.

“There still do not appear to be any major storms in sight in the Atlantic to hurt production, but traders will keep an eye on the developments of the system in the Atlantic to see if it grows and what its track might be,” said Jack Scoville, vice president at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Meanwhile, traders are basing their decisions on weak consumer demand for orange juice.

U.S. orange-juice retail sales fell to the lowest level in 12 years for a second consecutive four-week period as consumers continue to shift away from the beverage, once a staple of the American breakfast.

U.S. consumers bought 36.11 million gallons of orange juice during the four weeks ended July 5, down 8.3% from a similar period a year ago, according to Nielsen data published by the Florida Department of Citrus. It was the lowest level of total sales since the four weeks ended Jan. 19, 2002, the oldest data available.

Prices for the beverage hit a record, rising 3.8% from a year ago to average $6.42 a gallon during the four weeks ended July 5, while total revenue fell 4.7% to $231.69 million, the data showed.

Along with more variety in the juice aisle, rising orange-juice prices—partly the result of a smaller U.S. crop, which has been ravaged by a bacterial disease—have been a factor in weaker demand, analysts have said. Florida produced 104.4 million 90-pound boxes of oranges in the season that wrapped up this month, the smallest crop in 29 years.

Supplies in storage are also tightening. During the month of June, the amount of frozen orange juice stored in the U.S. fell 14% from the same month in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In other markets, raw sugar for delivery in October on ICE fell 1.9% to 16.62 cents a pound, the lowest level since April 15 as a global glut continues to overpower all else in the market. The International Sugar Organization estimates global production will outpace demand for the fourth consecutive year when the current crop year ends Sept. 30.

Despite extremely dry weather in top producer Brazil earlier this year, which could have hurt some of the cane’s development, the harvest has been progressing rapidly. Sugar industry association Unica said last week that mills in Brazil’s main cane-growing region have produced 12.9 million tons of sugar since the harvest began in April, up 13% from last year.

Cotton for December delivery fell to a new near five-year low of 65.01 cents a pound on Tuesday, down 1.3% on the day, as a glut also weighed on the market for the fiber.

The weather could help boost the U.S. cotton crop this autumn to 17.2 million bales, Morgan Stanley said in a note Tuesday. That forecast is 4.2% higher than the USDA’s estimate and a third more than the current season’s crop. The new cotton season begins Aug. 1, and the USDA projects that a record amount of the fiber will be left over in warehouses world-wide at the end of it.

However, “I suspect much of the negative outlook and fundamentals have been ‘priced in’,” said Sharon Johnson, senior cotton specialist and introducing broker at KCG Futures in Atlanta. “Positives such as an increase in cotton consumption due to the low price and strong export activity will begin to have an impact.”

Cocoa for September delivery ended 0.4% higher at $3,177 a ton, while arabica coffee for delivery in September closed down 0.2% at $1.8070 a pound.

- Alexandra Wexler Wall St. Journal.