SOFTS-Sugar, coffee creep higher, index rebalancing supports
* Sugar key technical support seen at 18 cents, 17.70 c
* Record mid-crop cocoa pod setting seen in I.Coast
(Adds details, quotes, updates prices)
LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Raw sugar and arabica coffee futures nudged higher on Thursday, supported by index rebalancing activity, while cocoa was also higher as upbeat trade data from China boosted commodities and world shares.
China, the world's second-largest economy, reported that its exports had rebounded surprisingly sharply in December to hit a seven-month high, while imports grew at double the expected rate.
Raw sugar futures edged towards 19 cents as dealers expected that index fund buying could help extend gains with the index's re-balancing this week.
"There is certainly an effect from the rebalancing on sugar and coffee," said Karim Cherif, commodities analyst at Credit Suisse.
March raw sugar futures on ICE traded 0.15 cent or 0.8 percent higher at 18.87 cents a lb at 1221 GMT, after briefly trading above 19.5 cents at the turn of the year.
"The momentum we saw at the end of last year has faded," said Cherif, noting ample supplies combined with a weak technical outlook would weigh on prices.
"I would expect some weakness ahead, with next support seen at 18 cents and 17.70 cents. If we break below this it will start to look ugly for the market on a technical basis."
March white sugar on Liffe edged up $2.80 or 0.6 percent to $509.80 per tonne.
Dealers awaited Brazil's industry association Unica's latest harvest update, due at 1800 GMT.
Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation has issued its first tender to export 50,000 tonnes of sugar to European Union countries under a quota system, a senior corporation official said on Thursday.
Arabica coffee futures edged higher, inline with a firmer commodities complex, with March up 0.95 cent or 0.6 percent to $1.4885 per lb.
"People are still pausing to see what the rebalancing of index funds will do to this market, which will have completed by the end of the month," said a London-based broker.
March robusta coffee futures rose $6 or 0.3 percent to $1,917 a tonne.
Robusta bean prices in Vietnam eased on Thursday, tracking a drop in the London futures market and luring buyers away from Indonesian supplies, but the low prices also discouraged farmers from selling their crop to exporters, traders said.
Liffe cocoa futures edged off the previous sessions 8-1/2 month low of 1,424 pounds per tonne.
Benchmark May futures traded up 6 pounds or 0.4 percent at 1,441 pounds per tonne.
Dealers continued to monitor the development of top producer Ivory Coast's mid crop.
"We have a record mid crop setting due to the decent rains we had in November/December but now the Harmattan wind is coming in so we're not sure what the survival will be," said a trader.
"If everything is normal then we should have a decent crop, better than last year."
The intensity of the dusty Harmattan, which blows southward from the Sahara Desert from December to March, can impact crop prospects.
ICE March cocoa futures rose $20 or 0.9 percent to $2,243 per tonne.
(Reporting by Sarah McFarlane; Editing by Alison Birrane)