A sugar sell-off spills into its 2nd day; Orange juice prices continue to rise on crop concern

By Stephen Bernard, AP
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sugar continues retreat; most commodities lower

NEW YORK — Sugar prices retreated for a second day Wednesday as traders continued to grab profits after a six-week rally. Orange juice prices climbed on production concerns.

Metals, grains and energy prices all fell.

The recent pullback in sugar prices purely reflects investors taking profits, said Jack Scoville, a vice president at Price Futures Group, adding that the bull case for sugar remains intact. Sugar for March delivery fell 94 cents, or 3.2 percent, to settle at 28.36 cents per pound.

“Even though the news remains friendly, you don’t always go up,” Scoville said. The market “just ran out of buyers.”

Sugar prices have soared in recent weeks, partly because of scarce supplies, and hit a 29-year high of 30.1 cents per pound on Monday. The contract has risen more than 32 percent since early December.

Orange juice continued to rise as it becomes more apparent that freezing temperatures in Florida earlier this month caused greater damage than originally thought.

March contracts for frozen orange juice concentrate rose 3.3 cents to settle at $1.4615 a pound.

The price of frozen orange juice concentrate spiked early this month — climbing to a two-year high, above $1.51 a pound — as freezing temperatures settled over Florida. Prices then plummeted after the cold snap ended and traders thought oranges were mostly spared.

However, since Jan. 15, prices have climbed nearly 11 percent.

Scoville said it will still take a long time before the full extent of the damage is known because some of the crop destruction won’t show up until processing takes place, or as trees start to grow new fruit for the next growing season. The cold blast came at the peak of the growing season.

Rising prices for frozen orange juice concentrate would likely mean higher prices for OJ at grocery stores. Demand for frozen orange juice concentrate climbs when fresh fruit production shrinks.

Meanwhile, metals fell as the dollar strengthened. A stronger dollar makes commodities more expensive for foreign investors. The ICE Futures US dollar index rose 0.3 percent.

Gold for April delivery fell $13.80 to settle at $1,085.70 an ounce, while March silver declined 42 cents to $16.440 an ounce. Copper for March delivery fell 11.7 cents to $3.2225 a pound.

Grains fell. Wheat for March delivery dropped 10.25 cents to settle at $4.8375 a bushel. Soybeans tumbled 18.5 cents to $9.29 a bushel, while corn declined 4 cents to $3.5825 a bushel.

Energy prices also declined. The Energy Information Administration said demand for crude products dropped even further from the low levels seen a year ago. The EIA said demand for gasoline fell 0.8 percent over the four weeks ended Friday, compared with the same period last year. Demand for distillates used for heating oil and diesel fuel dropped 8.1 percent.

Benchmark crude for March delivery fell $1.04 to settle at $73.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That’s the lowest settlement price since Dec. 14, when crude dipped to $73.46.

In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil fell 3.4 cents to settle at $1.9168 a gallon, while gasoline dropped 2.82 cents to settle at $1.9392 a gallon. Natural gas futures slid by 21.1 cents to settle at $5.274 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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