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NEW YORK: ICE cotton futures were en route to their biggest yearly rise in 11 years on Friday, boosted by robust demand for the natural fiber and tight supply due to the global shipping crisis.

Cotton prices are up over 44% this year, their biggest yearly percentage gain since 2010.

“Biggest factors that drove prices this year were tight supplies due to shipping issues, robust demand and several funds poured back into the commodities market,” said Bailey Thomen, cotton risk management associate at StoneX Group.

China is one of the top consumers of US cotton.

For the current session, the front-month March cotton contract on ICE Futures eased 1.87 cents, or 1.6%, to 112.47 cents per lb, by 12:34 EST (1734 GMT). “The downward move today is a pullback after the big moves this week,” said Jim Nunn, owner of Tennessee-based cotton brokerage Nunn Cotton.

On Thursday, prices touched 115.33 cents, their highest level since Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) weekly export sales report on Thursday showed net sales of 192,200 running bales, down 21% from the previous week and 40% from the prior 4-week average, with China the top buyer.

The export sales were mostly to the usual suspects, while shipment pace continues to raise concerns, said Louis Rose of Tennessee-based Rose Commodity Group in a note dated Thursday.

Total futures market volume fell by 9,271 to 9,023 lots. Data showed total open interest gained 1,969 to 239,578 contracts in the previous session.

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