SINGAPORE: Malaysian palm oil futures edged lower on Friday and posted their third straight monthly loss, with investors staying cautious after top analysts warned that record high stocks would weigh on prices in the new year.
But losses were limited by a surprise increase in Malaysian exports in November from a month ago, easing concerns that record high stocks would climb further for the month.
Exports rose to 1.66 million tonnes in November from October's 1.61 million, cargo surveyor Intertek Testing Services said on Friday. Another surveyor, Societe Generale de Surveillance, reported November shipments at 1.65 million tonnes, up from last month's 1.57 million.
"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.
The benchmark February contract on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange closed down 0.7 percent at 2,370 ringgit ($780) per tonne, off an earlier low at 2,359 ringgit, a level not seen since Nov. 14. For the month, prices posted a 5 percent loss.
Total traded volumes were thin at 20,776 lots of 25 tonnes each compared to the usual 25,000, underlining 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, top industry analyst Dorab Mistry said at an Indonesian industry meeting 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 oil slipped towards $110 a barrel on Friday as a lack of progress in US budget talks to avert a fiscal crisis muddied the outlook for demand in the world's biggest oil consumer.
In other vegetable oil markets, US soyoil for December delivery lost 0.2 percent in late Asian trade. The most-active May 2013 soybean oil contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange edged up 0.2 percent.