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NEW YORK: ICE cotton futures eased on Friday, but were headed towards their biggest weekly percentage rise since July 2016, bolstered by strong Chinese buying and concerns over a supply crunch due to crop damage in major producer India.

The cotton contract for December fell 0.62 cent, or 0.59%, at 105.18 cents per lb by 02:03 p.m. EST (1803 GMT).

Earlier in the session, the second month cotton futures contract hit its highest level since September 2011 at 107.28 cents. It has risen more than 9% so far this week. “Prices are taking a pause today after a strong rally,” said Rogers Varner, president of Varner Brokerage in Cleveland, Mississippi. “Four weeks in row China has been a big buyer of US cotton, there has been reports that some Indian cotton is rained down. All these factors are helping the market.”

On Thursday, the US Department of Agriculture’s weekly export sales report showed net sales of 571,400 running bales for 2021/2022, were up 65% from the previous week and 92% from the prior 4-week average, with increases primarily for China.

Heavy rains brought by cyclone Gulab damaged India’s summer-sown crops, such as soybeans, cotton, pulses and vegetables, just before harvesting in key growing regions.

“Looking forward, most US cotton growing areas are likely to see some relatively light rain over the near-term which, while not desirable, will also probably not be destructive,” said Louis Rose, director of research and analytics at Tennessee-based Rose Commodity Group, in a note.

“But filling of the supply pipeline will be delayed.” Total futures market volume fell by 5,570 to 39,331 lots. Data showed total open interest gained 2,602 to 291,964 contracts in the previous session.

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