SOFTS-Cocoa falls to multi-month lows, ICE sugar at 3-week high
* Liffe cocoa extends four-week decline in prices
* Robusta coffee buoyed by low certified stocks
* Raw sugar rally capped by producer selling
(New throughout, updates prices; adds trade comment, second dateline/byline)
NEW YORK/LONDON, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Cocoa futures extended their losses to set multi-month lows on Thursday on technical selling after falling below key 200-day moving averages, with the markets in both London and New York facing their first weak quarterly performance in a year.
Raw sugar futures on ICE Futures U.S. jumped more than 2 percent to a three-week high as funds took profits from their short positions, while arabica coffee inched lower and are on track to see its biggest annual fall in 12 years.
Robusta futures on Liffe climbed for the sixth straight session, but was set to end the fourth quarter with its weakest quarterly performance since September 2011.
Liffe markets reopened on Thursday after a two-day holiday, and trends partly reflected an adjustment to the prior day's performance on ICE, which was open on Wednesday.
Liffe May cocoa closed down 21 pounds, or 1.4 percent, at 1,448 pounds per tonne, the lowest settlement for the second month since May 30. The contract has dropped more than 10 percent so far in the fourth quarter, it only weak quarterly performance in 2012 as supplies have been plentiful.
Prices have dropped for seven sessions straight, falling nearly 7 percent, since the contract failed to close above the 200-day moving average at 1,553 pounds on Dec. 14.
"The problem you have with cocoa is there is not a great deal of support (nearby)," Sucden Financial analyst Jack Pollard said, adding the market could easily fall another 40 to 50 pounds before finding chart-based support.
Pollard said open interest had been building steadily during the decline, which was supportive of the strength of the downtrend, although the market had become heavily oversold after a four-week slide in prices.
When markets become technically oversold, there is a greater likelihood of a short-term rebound in prices.
March cocoa futures on ICE closed down $8, or 0.4 percent, at $2,255 a tonne, marking the spot contract's eighth straight lower settlement and its weakest since July 25.
The benchmark March contract dropped below the key 200-day moving average five sessions previous, a technical sell signal for many traders. On Thursday, the 14-day moving average crossed below the long-term moving average.
The spot contract has also fallen more than 10 percent in the current fourth quarter, marking its first weak quarter in a year. On a monthly basis, it's down about 11 percent, its weakest monthly performance since November 2011.
"I just think it's a lack of interest, people are long and are liquidating," said Nick Gentile, chief trader at Atlantic Capital Advisors in New Jersey.
Dealers said a slight improvement in the outlook for the 2012/13 mid-crop in top grower Ivory Coast and forward selling of the 2013/14 harvest had helped to put cocoa on the defensive.
They also noted that the pace of main crop port arrivals in Ivory Coast had begun to pick up after a slow start.
Exporters estimated that around 66,000 tonnes of beans were delivered to the West African state's two ports between Dec. 17 and Dec. 23, up from 42,764 tonnes in the same week a year ago.
Raw sugar futures on ICE were higher as dealers holding short positions grabbed profits, with March up 0.39 cent, or 2.1 percent, at 19.44 cents a lb by 12:36 p.m. EST (1736 GMT), after reaching the highest since Dec. 6 at 19.55 cents.
Producer selling around 19.50 cents could capped the upside.
March white sugar on Liffe rose $5.00, or 1 percent, to $521.50 per tonne.
ARABICA POSTS BIGGEST YEARLY TUMBLE SINCE 2000
Arabica coffee futures on ICE were lower in choppy dealings as the market continued to consolidate after climbing earlier this month from a 2-1/2-year low, with the second month touching $1.422 per lb on Dec. 14.
March arabica was down 0.55 cent, or 0.6 percent, at $1.4775 per lb.
"It is consolidating around low levels," Pollard said, adding there were some supportive chart indicators including a potential inverted head and shoulders on the second month.
"If those play out, you are looking at the 165 (cents a lb) area," he said.
Arabica coffee prices have been declining for more than 18 months, weighed by excess supplies after hitting a 34-year high above $3 per lb in May 2011.
The arabica market is by far the weakest performer on the Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a global benchmark for commodities, having dropped around 34 percent since the end of 2011. Frozen concentrated orange juice is the second weakest performer, down roughly 15 percent.
Arabica futures are on track for their lowest annual performance in 12 years, preliminary Thomson Reuters data showed.
Robusta coffee futures, on the other hand, moved higher on the day and have gained about 6 percent on the year as demand for the lower costing bean climbed.
March robusta coffee futures closed up $14 or 0.7 percent, at $1,920 a tonne, underpinned by low certified stocks. ($1 = 0.6202 British pounds)
(Reporting by Nigel Hunt in London and Marcy Nicholson in New York; Editing by Anthony Barker, Jane Baird and Bob Burgdorfer)