By Duane Howell DTN Cotton Correspondent

March 2, 2018
May finished inside day on small gain. Unpriced mill sales increased to a total of 14.182 million bales. U.S. cotton moved to a narrow premium in the Far East. Cotton futures finished mixed in quiet trading Friday, taking something of a wait-and-see position on talk that plans to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum could trigger retaliation among trading partners.

May edged up 28 points to close at 82.09 cents, completing an inside day near the high of its 112-point range from down 71 points at 81.10 to up 41 points at 82.22 cents. It gained 75 points for the week. July settled up 24 points to 82.35 cents, trading within a 104-point range from 81.43 to 82.47 cents. December dipped 13 points to close at 77.05 cents. The other contracts were down four points to 38 points.

China was reported to have said it would defend its interests appropriately if President Donald Trump followed through with his pledge on Thursday to place a 25% tax on steel and 10% on aluminum next week. Volume slowed to an electronically estimated 22,100 lots from 44,729 lots the prior session when spreads accounted for 16,540 lots or 37%, EFS 534 lots and EFP 12 lots.

Unpriced on-call mill sales increased by a net total of 1,065 lots to 141,824 (14.182 million bales) last week, according to data reported by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission after the close Thursday. Producers priced a net 184 lots to shave their unfixed position to 34,362 lots (3.436 million bales). The net call difference rose by 1,249 lots to 107,462 (10.746 million bales), which was 41.6% of the rising open interest, compared with 42.8% a week earlier.

Mills priced or rolled 2,895 lots in March to wipe out their position there, while the pricing or rolling of 1,841 lots by producers left them with 100 call lots still open in March. In the May and July contracts, unpriced positions increased 1,818 lots to 76,494 for mills and 1,138 lots to 7,961 for producers, widening the net call difference 680 lots to 68,533, 36.8% of the expanding OI.

On the competitive-pricing front, the average of the five lowest-priced world growths for the Far East gained 340 points to 90.14 cents during the week ended Thursday, according to USDA calculations, while the lowest quoted U.S. cotton advanced 350 points to 90.20 cents. U.S. cotton thus moved to a six-point premium from a four-point discount. The adjusted world price, reflecting transportation and quality differentials, rose to 73.09 cents, which of course leaves the marketing loan gain for the program week ahead at zero.

The USDA calculations can vary from the Cotlook A Index of world values because of differing compositions of growths. The fine count adjustment for qualities better than 31-3-35, reflecting differences in premiums in the U.S. and international markets, widened to 71 points for 2017-crop cotton. Futures open interest grew 2,898 lots to 265,453 on Thursday, with March’s down 12 lots to 80 and May’s up 754 lots to 130,578. Certified stocks dropped two bales to 104,279.