SINGAPORE: Malaysian palm oil futures edged lower on Friday and were heading for their third straight monthly loss, with investors staying cautious after top analysts warned that record high stocks will weigh on prices in the new year.
But losses were limited by a surprise increase in Malaysian exports in November to 1.66 million tonnes from 1.6 million tonnes seen in October, easing concerns that record high stocks would climb further for the month.
"The export surprise is likely to limit the downside because end-stocks are going to be flat to slightly lower for November. The market is also taking some time to digest the analysts' comments," said a dealer with a foreign commodities brokerage in Malaysia.
By the midday break, the benchmark February contract on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange fell 0.6 percent to 2,372 ringgit ($780) per tonne. For the month, prices were on track for a 5 percent loss.
Total traded volumes were thin at 8,342 lots of 25 tonnes each compared to the usual 12,500 lots, highlighting investor caution.
Technicals showed palm oil's target at 2,353 ringgit per tonne remained unchanged, and a break below will lead to a further drop to 2,288 ringgit, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.
Palm oil prices need to trade at the 2,200 ringgit level for the next 4-6 weeks to attract demand that could reduce and clear stocks, said top industry analyst Dorab Mistry at the Indonesian Palm Oil Association conference on Friday.
Leading analyst James Fry of LMC International raised issues such as uncertainty ahead of Chinese and possibly Indian import rules, although Thomas Mielke of Oil World provided a more upbeat forecast for palm oil prices.
Analysts and traders surveyed by Reuters at the conference saw 2013 average palm oil prices at 2,500 ringgit, down 17.1 percent from 3,016 ringgit calculated so far for this year.
In related markets, Brent crude slipped towards $110 a barrel on Friday as critical US budget talks to avert a looming fiscal disaster appeared to have stalled, denting the outlook for oil demand from the world's biggest consumer.
In other vegetable oil markets, US soyoil for December delivery lost 0.1 percent in early Asian trade. The most-active May 2013 soybean oil contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange edged up 0.2 percent.