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 KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian crude palm oil futures extended gains on Thursday as investor sentiment brightened on hopes Greece would secure a debt swap deal to avoid a messy default, while promising US jobs data also supported prices.

An upbeat price outlook for the edible oil, which has risen 3.6 percent so far this year, also underpinned market sentiment.

Palm oil prices are expected to hit 4,000 ringgit by the end of June, leading analyst Dorab Mistry said at a key palm oil conference on Wednesday. Prices have been trading in a range of 3,000-3,300 ringgit this year.

"The bullish price forecast helps to lift futures, right now I don't think there are other major factors," said James Ratnam, an analyst with TA Securities in Malaysia.

By the midday break, benchmark May palm oil futures on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange gained 0.7 percent to 3,288 ringgit ($1,091) per tonne.

Traded volumes were thin at 7,100 lots of 25 tonnes each, compared to the usual 12,500 lots.

Market players are now shifting their focus to the Malaysian export numbers to gauge the impact of Indonesia's move to slash the export tax on refined palm oil shipments.

Indonesia's tax change was the main talking point of the Bursa Malaysia palm oil conference that ended on Wednesday.

"Last year's exports were easier to predict but this year it's tougher because of the Indonesian tax structure," Ratnam said.

Cargo surveyors Intertek Testing Services and Societe Generale de Surveillance will release Malaysian export data for March 1-10 on Saturday and Monday, respectively.

Brent crude was steady above $124 a barrel on Thursday on hopes that Greece would win enough creditor support to avoid a messy default, while promising jobs data from top oil consumer, the United States also supported prices.

In other vegetable oil markets, the US soyoil contract for March delivery was flat in Asian trade and the most active September 2012 soyoil contract on China's Dalian Commodity exchange gained 0.3 percent.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

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