White Sugar #5 Futures Market News and Commentary
July NY world sugar #11 (SBN19) on Thursday closed up +0.45 (+3.59%) and Aug ICE London white sugar #5 (SWQ19) closed up by +6.30 (+1.90%). Sugar prices rallied Thursday with July NY sugar at a 1-month high after a surge in Brazil ethanol prices spurred fund short covering in sugar. Brazil hydrous ethanol prices rose to 2090 reals per cubic meter on Thursday, up 24% so far this month and the highest since the data began in 2010. Higher ethanol prices may prompt Brazil's sugar mills to divert more cane crushing to ethanol production rather than sugar production, thus curbing sugar supplies. Another supportive factor was the projection from the USDA's FAS that Thailand's 2019/20 sugar output, the world's fourth-largest, will fall by -2% y/y to 13.9 MMT. Strength in the Brazilian real against the dollar today has also lifted sugar futures due to the implication of reduced export selling by Brazilian sugar producers. On the bearish side, the European Commission on Wednesday said that it sees EU 2019/20 sugar output climbing 4% y/y to 18.3 MMT. Fund selling has weighed on sugar prices after last Friday afternoon's COT data showed that funds boosted their short ICE sugar positions by +1,215 net-short positions to 13,217 contracts, the highest net-short position since the data began in October 2011. Unica last Tuesday reported that 2018/19 Brazil Center-South sugar production was down -26.5% y/y at 26.5 MMT during Oct 1-Mar 31, with the percentage of cane crushed for sugar down to 35.2% from 45.5% last year and the percentage of cane crushed for ethanol production up to 64.8% from 53.5% last year. Also, researcher Marex Spectron last Wednesday forecasted that India 2019/20 sugar production will drop -9.2% y/y to 29.8 MMT on dry weather. Big Picture Sugar Market Factors: Bullish factors for sugar include (1) a surge in Brazil hydrous ethanol prices to a record high, which may prompt Brazil's sugar mills to divert more cane crushing to ethanol production rather than sugar production, thus curbing sugar supplies, (2) concern about smaller global production after Unica forecasted that Brazil's Center South 2018/19 sugar production will fall -28% y/y to 26 MMT, and (3) increased demand from Indonesia, the world's largest sugar importer, after Indonesia's Sugar Refiners Association said refiners may import 3.2 MMT of raw sugar in 2019, up +5.3% y/y. Bearish factors include (1) ISO's forecast that global 2018/19 sugar production will rise +0.6% y/y to a record 185.2 MMT and that there will be a 2018/19 sugar surplus of 2.2 MMT (vs 2017/18's 7.3 MMT), (2) USDA's FAS forecast for 2018/19 sugar production in India, the world's second-largest sugar producer, to climb +5.3% y/y to a record 35.9 MMT, and (3) record sugar output from Thailand, the world's fourth-largest sugar producer, after the Thailand Office of Cane and Sugar Board reported that Thailand 2017/18 sugar production rose to a record 14.47 MMT.