SOFTS-Liffe cocoa hits 7-month low, coffee creeps higher
* Speculators hold large net longs in ICE and Liffe cocoa
* Arabica coffee prices consolidate above 2-1/2 year low
* China to stockpile 3 million tonnes of sugar
(Adds details, quotes)
LONDON, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Cocoa futures on Liffe fell to the lowest levels in around seven months on Monday, with charts seen bearish following the recent weak performance of prices and forward selling of West Africa's 2013/14 crop also helping to keep the market on the defensive.
Coffee prices edged up and sugar eased slightly in thin pre-holiday trade.
The softs markets trading on ICE Futures U.S. will close early at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) on Monday, remain closed on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, and open late at 7:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) on Dec. 26.
On Liffe, the markets closed around 1200 GMT on Monday. They will remain closed Dec. 25-26, and resume normal trading on Dec. 27.
Liffe May cocoa settled 8 pounds lower at 1,469 pounds a tonne after touching 1,463 pounds, the lowest level for the second month since June 1.
"It does look technically weak," one London dealer said, adding, however, that the significance of the price decline was diminished by very light pre-holiday volumes.
Dealers also cited the large net long position held by speculators as a further potentially bearish factor.
Speculators maintained their large net long position in ICE cocoa futures and options in the week to Dec. 18, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed on Friday.
"It is ultimately bearish although there will have been some action since then (Dec. 18)," another London dealer said, adding speculators may have trimmed the net long as prices fell during the last few days.
Speculators are also holding a large net long position in Liffe cocoa, exchange data showed on Monday.
March cocoa futures on ICE were off $14 or 0.6 percent at $2,298 a tonne at 1309 GMT, after touching a five-month low for the front month of $2,295.
Arabica coffee futures on ICE crept higher as the market continued to consolidate above a 2-1/2 year low set earlier this month.
"It (trade) is mainly tidying up before the Christmas break," a trader said, adding volumes were boosted by several Against Actuals (AA) trades which can involve the exchange of futures for physical market positions.
March arabica coffee futures on ICE rose 0.35 cent or 0.2 percent to $1.4695 per lb.
A bullish target at $1.53 per lb has been established for New York March coffee due to the completion of a five-wave cycle, according to Reuters analyst Wang Tao.
March robusta coffee futures settled $12 higher at $1,906 a tonne.
Raw sugar futures on ICE were marginally lower with March off 0.04 cents or 0.2 percent to 19.21 cents a lb.
Dealers said the market was rangebound with the upside capped by selling by Brazilian producers around 19.50 cents.
ICE March sugar remains neutral in a range of 18.81-19.46 cents per lb, and only an escape will point a future direction, according to Reuters analyst Wang Tao.
March white sugar on Liffe settled $1.80 or 0.35 percent lower at $516.50 per tonne.
China will stockpile 3 million tonnes of sugar from the domestic market for the 2012/13 crop year to help stabilise home prices, an industry website said on Tuesday, citing a government announcement.
(Editing by James Jukwey)