SOFTS-Arabica around 4-month low, robusta up from 6-month trough
* Robusta supported by tight supply and demand outlook
* Lower sugar prices trigger end user pricing
* Cocoa markets move up from 200-day moving averages
(New throughout, updates prices; adds analyst comment, second byline/dateline)
NEW YORK/LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Arabica coffee futures dropped to the lowest level in more than four months on Thursday, on pressure from the firm U.S. dollar and as chart-based selling was triggered below the previous low, while robusta coffee was firm, sitting just above a six-month low.
Sugar futures also eased while cocoa crept higher, finding strong support at the 200-day moving average.
``You have a lot of fund managers and fund types who can't get into their offices and are working as best they can remotely,'' said Sterling Smith, futures specialist at Citigroup in Chicago.
``I think that inhibits any major decisions or major position changes, so that keeps the market fairly well caught in technical traps and volume a little bit less than what one would normally anticipate.''
New Yorkers awoke to the rumble of subway trains for the first time in four days on Thursday and the death toll continued to rise from the former hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest and most devastating storms ever to hit the United States.
December arabica coffee futures were down 1 cent, or 0.7 percent, at $1.5370 per lb by 12:33 p.m. EDT (1633 GMT). The spot-month hit $1.5280 earlier in the session, the lowest level since June 22.
The contract extended its losses on chart-based selling after falling below the previous session's low of $1.5440. The strong dollar also pressured prices as the euro surrendered its gains versus the dollar and the greenback rose to a session high versus the yen as speculation grew that the Bank of Japan will have to take additional monetary easing measures to fight off deflation.
The strong greenback makes dollar-denominated commodities such as coffee more expensive for investors holding other currencies.
Robusta coffee, however, crept higher.
January robusta coffee futures were up $19, or 1 percent, at $1,987 a tonne, after touching $1,965 on Wednesday, the lowest level for the second-month since April, under pressure from ample Vietnamese supplies.
``What you're seeing now is a technical recovery from that (Wednesday's low),'' said Andrea Thompson, analyst at CoffeeNetwork, part of INTL FCStone, adding that prices should consolidate in the short term.
``Not many people would expect to see notable further losses from here because you have got expectations for record robusta crop and another big Vietnamese crop, but global robusta demand is so strong that the balance is likely to remain tight.''
Robustas from Vietnam changed hands at discounts to London futures this week as the harvest progressed, while tight supply and sporadic demand from exporters kept Indonesian beans at premiums for prompt shipment, dealers said on Thursday.
March sugar futures turned lower in an inside session, trading down 0.1 cent, or 0.5 percent, at 19.36 cents a lb, as dealers said lower prices encouraged some end-user pricing.
In the absence of fresh fundamental drivers, prices were expected to remain range-bound in the near term.
``The market will tend to hover around the lower end and from time to time will test new lows,'' a London-based broker said. ``The only thing that will change that will be a very weak dollar or a sudden increase, a substantial increase, in demand and I don't see that at the moment.''
Demand for physical sugar was also weak, analysts said.
``Physical sugar is trading at steep discounts to futures, which suggests that physical demand is lacking a bit. The market is sluggish and to uncover buying we need to drop in price to allow import margins to get positive,'' said James Kirkup, director of sugar brokerage at ABN AMRO Markets Ltd.
December white sugar on Liffe was down $4.10, or 0.8 percent, at $537.70 per tonne.
December's premium over March remained firm at $19.50 per tonne in the lead up to December's expiry on Nov. 15.
Cocoa futures, however, moved higher with both the London and New York markets finding strong technical support at their 200-day moving averages.
ICE December cocoa was $32 higher, or 1.3 percent, at $2,420 per tonne, holding firm above the 200-day moving average at $2,351. Benchmark Liffe March cocoa futures were up 14 pounds, or 0.9 percent at 1,562 pounds per tonne, remaining stuck within the range the market has traded since December. The session low sat at 1,537 pounds, just above the 200-day moving average at 1,536 pounds.
Ghana's cocoa purchases hit 86,028 tonnes by Oct. 19 after the season started on Oct. 12, down sharply from the 152,365 tonnes recorded in same period of the 2011-12 season, Cocobod data showed on Thursday.
``The market is not striving out in any direction. The end-users and the industry are certainly not charging at the market to be any sort of panic buyers. The market is pretty much flat-lining,'' the London broker said.
(Additional reporting by Sarah McFarlane in London; editing by Jane Baird, Jason Neely and Peter Galloway)