SOFTS-ICE cocoa at 7-1/2-mth low, arabica flirts with recent low
* ICE cocoa hits lowest level since June 2012
* Arabica hits double bottom with previous session's low
* Raw sugar volume neared heavy 222,000 lots on Thursday
(New throughout, updates prices; adds trade comment, second byline/dateline, graphic link)
NEW YORK/LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Cocoa futures on ICE dropped to a 7-1/2-month low on Friday, as the March/May spread inverted following the spot contract's first notice day, while arabica coffee turned higher after nearing the lowest level in more than 2-1/2 years.
Raw sugar on ICE Futures U.S. consolidated mostly lower after dropping to a 2-1/2-year low in the previous session, lifting the spot contract's premium to the highest in more than seven months.
In cocoa, May futures on ICE closed down $12, or 0.6 percent, at $2,144 a tonne, after dipping to $2,135 earlier in the session, the lowest level for the second month since June 2012. The March contract, which had its first notice day on Thursday, closed at a $3 premium to May after peaking around $12 intraday, a stark contrast to the discount of roughly $27 held the previous two sessions.
"The speculators have been long and as they're getting out they've been moving the market back and forth," said Hector Galvan, senior market strategist for RJO Futures in Chicago.
Dealers said West Africa's mid crop development was benefiting from favorable weather, which was weighing on the market as well as forward sales.
"The midcrop is looking to do very well because the weather's looking good in Ivory Coast," Galvan said.
"There are not a lot of bullish catalysts out there that people can turn to."
May cocoa on Liffe settled 9 pounds lower, or 0.6 percent, at 1,418 pounds a tonne, above Tuesday's 10-month low of 1,411 pounds.
"We haven't got too much scope for upside from a fundamental perspective in the near term," said a London-based broker, adding there was potential for record mid crops from West Africa.
May arabica coffee futures on ICE were up 0.05 cent at $1.4080 per lb by 12:38 p.m. EST (1738 GMT), after hitting a double bottom with Thursday's low of $1.4010 earlier in the session, the lowest level for the benchmark second month since June 2010.
Improving crop prospects in top producer Brazil limited any price upside potential, despite concerns of roya disease, or leaf rust, curbing Central American production, dealers said.
"It seems like people have ... really have just focused their attention to just selling coffee and really losing any bullish confidence in the coffee all together," Galvan said.
May robusta coffee futures on Liffe eased $2 to $2,057 a tonne.
ICE raw sugar futures consolidated mostly lower, digesting losses after dipping the previous session to the lowest level since August 2010 at 17.87 cents per lb, basis March.
Total volume was exceptionally heavy on Thursday, reaching a five-month high at nearly 222,000 lots, ICE data showed, on March/May spreading
The spread remained active, with the March premium versus May jumping to 0.21 cent, the highest in 7-1/2 months and up from 0.17 on Thursday. The premium was viewed as the result of the large speculative net short position, as they were forced to cover their shorts to get out of the March contract ahead of its expiry at the end of the month.
March raw sugar futures on ICE edged up 0.03 cent, or 0.2 percent, to 17.97 cents a lb, remaining up from the previous session's 2-1/2-year low at 17.87 cents, while the most active May dropped by 0.07 cent to 17.70 cents.
An expected third consecutive global surplus kept the market under pressure, with large crops expected from key producers including Brazil, where the harvest typically begins in April.
"There's nothing expected until late spring now in terms of fundamental developments," said VTB Capital analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov.
Brazil harvested the tail end of its main center-south 2012/13 cane crop in the second half of January, taking the season's cumulative total to 532.18 million tonnes, up 7.9 percent from a year earlier, industry association Unica data showed on Friday.
"People are now focusing on Indian production," said a London-based broker, adding prospects were improving and expectations were for a crop of between 25 million and 26 million tonnes, at the upper end of earlier estimates.
May white sugar on Liffe was down $1.30, or 0.3 percent, at $489.10 a tonne.
(Editing by Alison Birrane and James Jukwey)