SOFTS-Arabica climbs up from 4-month low, robusta at 7-week low
* Robusta seen range bound as Vietnam harvest picks up
* Dry weather seen helping Brazil sugar harvest
* ICE says markets trading normal hours despite hurricane
(New throughout, updates prices; adds trade comments, second byline/dateline) NEW YORK/LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Arabica coffee futures trading on ICE turned higher after hitting a four-month low on Monday, on concern about possible flooding in areas where stocks are stored on the U.S. East Coast and as the market approached a key support level. Liffe robusta coffee futures fell to a seven-week low on Monday, as the harvest in top producer Vietnam's harvest picked up, while raw sugar inched higher after tapping a five week low and cocoa markets dropped below their 200-day moving averages. Arabica coffee futures on ICE turned higher, with December closing up 3.9 cents, or 2.5 percent at $1.6165 per lb. The spot contract earlier hit $1.5630 earlier in the session, the lowest level since June 25. While the market found support in roaster buying, combined with Brazilian farmers holding back on coffee sales, hoping for higher prices, speculative short-covering and concern about supplies stored in the United States were also seen as supportive, dealers said. Hurricane Sandy began battering the U.S. East Coast on Monday with fierce winds and driving rain, as the monster storm shut down transportation, shuttered businesses and sent thousands scrambling for higher ground hours before the worst was due to strike. Though U.S. stock and options markets were closed Monday and scheduled to remain shut on Tuesday due to the hurricane, the electronic agricultural commodity markets traded on ICE Futures U.S. as usual. ``The COT (Commitment of Traders) data and coffee warehouse in New York by the water,'' is what's lifting the market, said Nick Gentile, chief trader at Atlantic Capital Advisors based in New Jersey. ICE certified arabica stocks have risen above 2.4 million bags, the highest in 2-1/2 years, with just over 400,000 bags currently being stored in the New York/New Jersey area. With forecasters expecting Sandy to produce a surge as high of 11 feet (3.4 meters) to low lying areas, some dealers were concerned about the potential for damage to stocks in the area. Media reports from Cuba said the country's coffee crop was decimated by Hurricane Sandy when it ripped through the eastern Cuba late last week. Also seen lifting the market is heavy short-covering after speculators were reported on Friday, to have increased their net short position in arabica futures and options to the highest in six weeks. ``It's the tightness of supply, the fact that there are no beans available because Brazilian farmers are not interested in selling at around 1.50. It prompts commercial users to enter at these levels,'' said Keith Flury, an analyst at Rabobank. Vietnam's large crop weighed on robusta coffee. January robusta futures inched down $6 to settle at $2,015 a tonne after touching $1,987 earlier in the session, the lowest level for the second month since Sept. 6. Prices were expected to keep to a narrow range in the short term.
SUGAR SUPPLIES March sugar futures closed up 0.06 cent at 19.41 cents a lb, after hitting the lowest since Sept. 26 at 19.27 cents, as ample supplies weighed. With dry weather forecast in major producer Brazil, Unica, the country's cane industry association, is expected to report that crushings continued at a fast pace in the last two weeks of October when it issues an update next week. ``There is nothing to suggest anything otherwise. No one is too concerned for the end of the crop at the moment,'' said a London-based broker. Dealers kept an eye on a widening premium on December white sugar futures over March, to $22 per tonne from $8.20 a week ago, which could indicate a shortage of sugar for delivery. December white sugar on Liffe eased $1.40, or 0.3 percent, to end at $543.80 per tonne. ICE December cocoa closed down $33, or 1.4 percent, at $2,350 per tonne after falling below the 200-day moving average at $2,351. Liffe March cocoa futures ended down 11 pounds at 1,533 pounds per tonne, below the 200-day moving average at 1,535 pounds. There are nearly 3.2 million bags cocoa stored in ICE certified warehouses at the Port of Delaware River, which is about 60 miles northwest of Atlantic City, where Hurricane Sandy is forecast to first hit when coming inland. There are another 830,000 bags at the Port of New York. ``There is some talk of potential damage to cocoa in the U.S. depending on what warehouses get hit,'' said Jack Scoville, an analyst with The Price Group in Chicago. Dealers said activity on the physical cocoa market remained subdued in the opening weeks of the 2012/13 season. Harvest of West Africa's main crop is now under way with port arrivals slowly picking up. ``It was a quiet week in terms of physical business,'' said a European cocoa trader. ``People are just waiting for things to come.'' Cocoa arrivals at ports in top grower Ivory Coast reached around 87,000 tonnes by Oct. 28 since the start of the season earlier this month, exporters estimated, compared with 90,609 tonnes a year ago.
(Additional reporting by Sarah McFarlane in London; Editing by William Hardy and Sofina Mirza-Reid)