By Duane Howell DTN Cotton Correspondent

October 11, 2017

Boll opening in Texas at 60% lagged behind the five-year average of 71%, but harvesting at 27% complete topped the average of 19%. Crop ratings improved. Weekly export sales report delayed until Friday.

Cotton futures drifted to a mixed close Wednesday, up six points to down 22 points across the board, seeming to continue marking time prior to USDA’s monthly supply-demand report. December posted the biggest closing loss, settling at 68.73 cents, around the lower third of its 99-point range from up 50 points at 69.45 to down 49 points at 68.46 cents. It finished around the midpoint (68.69) of the 257-point range that has prevailed since the 300-point limit-down close on Sept. 12.

March eased eight points to settle at 68.30 cents, trading within a 95-point, inside-day range from 68.90 to 67.95 cents. Volume slowed to an electronically estimated 14,300 lots from 20,687 lots the previous session when spreads accounted for 8,846 lots or 43%, EFS 54 lots and EFP two lots.

The USDA supply-demand estimates, set for release at 11 a.m. CDT on Thursday, are expected to reflect U.S. crop damages from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The report, based on cotton conditions around Oct. 1, won’t have an assessment on the effects of Hurricane Nate, believed mild, or on the latest cold snap on the Texas High Plains.

Boll opening edged up four percentage points to 60% in Texas during the week ended Sunday, widening the lag behind last year to eight points and behind the five-year average to 11 points, USDA’s weekly progress report showed.

The lag the prior week was two points behind a year ago and five points behind average. Cotton in the northern and southern High Plains struggled to develop because of a lack of warm weather, the USDA regional field office at Austin reported. Harvesting statewide advanced five points to 27% complete, up eight points from last year and the five-year average, compared with leads the prior week of six points.

Despite concerns about the weather-induced slowing of fiber maturity in the Plains, statewide crop ratings improved, with good to excellent up four points to 56% and poor to very poor down a point to 17%. A year ago, good-excellent was 44% and poor-very poor was 19%.

Beltwide, with 25% of the crop off the stalk, good to excellent rose three points to 60% and poor to very poor a point to 15%, compared with 48% and 16%, respectively, last year. The DTN cotton condition index rose seven points on the week to 140, up from 121 a year ago.

Meanwhile, the U.S. weekly export sales-shipments report, usually released by USDA on Thursdays, will be delayed until Friday because of the Columbus Day holiday on Monday. Upland sales for the week ended Oct. 5 are expected to show an increase from the prior week’s 161,000 running bales, a three-week low but still above the pace needed to match USDA’s export estimate. Prices during the reporting week ranged from 67.40, lowest since Aug. 22, to 69.97 cents, highest since Sept. 12.

Shipments have continued to lag, with upland exports for the week ended Sept. 28 falling to 114,900 RB, 21% below the prior four-week average. Upland shipments the last four weeks have averaged 132,800 RB a week and upland sales have averaged 148,800 RB.

Futures open interest declined 292 lots to 229,474 on Tuesday, with December’s down 1,050 lots to 126,178 and March’s up 614 lots to 70,658. Still open in matured October were 19 lots, not including Wednesday’s nine delivery notices, including three by SC Americas securities.

October’s last notice day is Monday and its last delivery day is a week later. Certified stocks increased 558 bales to 6,003. There were 616 newly certified bales and 58 bales decertified.