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Sugar futures sell-off extends as Brazilian production winds up

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December 14th,2016

There is not end to the fund exodus from sugar, as prices plumb new six-month lows, under pressure from growing confidence that production will outstrip demand next year.

Raw sugar prices are down some 24% from their October highs, and down 16% over the last month.

"It is not only the deficit estimates for the current 2016-17 season – which have now been reduced – that are to blame," said Commerzbank.

"More and more observers expect to see at least a small surplus on the global sugar market in the coming season," the bank said.

Sugar Futures: Brazilian crop winds up

The latest data from Brazilian cane body Unica reported production in country's centre-south sugar belt for the second half of November at 1.13m tonnes.

This compares with the 1.37m tonnes produced in the same period last year, when rain delays through the season caused an extend harvest.

Unica said 165 mills have finished processing this year's crop, compared with only 52 at this time last year.

But the rapid fall-off in production has been factored in, and markets are now more interested about prospects for next season.

This week Sucden financial forecast record global sugar production in the 2017-18 season, suggesting a surplus of around 1m tonnes.

Sugar Futures: No sign of a bounce

"There is little sign of a bounce so far this morning and the market is under pressure," said Tom Kujawa, at Sucden Financial.

"There seems to be little fresh fundamental news across the wires which would explain the recent downside activity other than recent releases from our leading trade houses and analysts regarding 2017-2018 global supply and demand forecasts indicating we will be shifting  from deficit to surplus," Mr Kujwa said.

And this bearish fundamental outlook is fuelling the retreat of funds from their once-massive long positions.

Sugar Futures: Investors jump ship

Tobin Gorey, at CBA said that the "benign view" was that "investors are exiting the remainder of their long position".

"Even that could take prices down further, possibly down to levels that are obviously an undershoot," Mr Gorey said.

But Mr Gorey suggested the "nastier" possibility that funds could now be ready to not just sell longs, but actually short the market.

"Such a response would generate a deeper undershoot," Mr Gorey said.

Sugar Futures: Uncertainty in Brazil

Still, Commerzbank suggested that the current sell-off was not justified by fundamentals.

"Although we believe that a lower price level than in the autumn is justified, we regard the current price correction as excessive," said Commerzbank, noting that forecast of a surplus next year was "merely conjecture".

"And while better Asian crops and an increase in EU production next season are probable, this may well not apply to Brazil."

 - William Clarke Agrimoney.

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