Cocoa jumps on speculation about tighter supplies

Cocoa jumps as hot weather in Africa triggers speculation that global supplies may tighten

Associated Press

Cocoa futures are jumping on speculation that hot weather in Africa may cause supplies of cocoa beans to shrink.

Cocoa for May delivery rose $121, or 5.3 percent, to finish Wednesday at $2,391 per metric ton. The price has risen nearly 14 percent this year as investors anticipate that a spell of hot, dry weather may have hurt crops in West Africa and the Ivory Coast, a major cocoa producing region.

In addition, cocoa supplies arriving at Ivory Coast ports for export have declined more quickly and to a bigger extent than had been expected, said Jack Scoville, vice president of Price Futures Group.

"You've got some definite issues here with the potential for lost production from this weather and that seems to be what's really the buzz of the market right now," Scoville said.

The price surge came a day after Valentine's Day, which is widely associated with consuming chocolate confections. But it isn't likely to push retail chocolate prices higher any time soon because cocoa prices still are about $1,000 per metric ton lower than they were a year ago, Sterling Smith, a market analyst at Country Hedging Inc., said in an emailed statement.

In other trading, commodity prices were mixed as negotiations dragged on over Greece's debt crisis and its request for more bailout funding. Investors have been concerned that Greece's debt problems, along with those in other European countries, could affect the region's economy and cause demand to fall for commodities.

Finance ministers from countries that use the euro are scheduled to meet Monday to decide whether to approve a bailout for Greece.

Most metals and energy contracts rose while agriculture contracts were mixed.

Gold for April delivery increased $10.40 to finish at $1,728.10 an ounce. In March contracts, silver rose 6 cents to end at $33.408 per ounce, copper fell 1.3 cents to $3.8015 per pound and palladium decreased $3.60 to $683.65 per ounce. April platinum rose $10.20 to end at $1,638.20 an ounce.

Oil prices climbed after Iran said it will cut off some crude exports to Europe in retaliation for an embargo planned later this year.

Benchmark crude increased $1.06 to end at $101.80 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil rose 2.68 cents to finish at $3.1916 per gallon, gasoline futures rose 2.42 cents to $3.0067 per gallon and natural gas fell 10.7 cents to $2.425 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In March agriculture contracts, wheat fell 9 cents to end at $6.26 per bushel, corn declined 6.5 cents to $6.27 per bushel and soybeans rose 6 cents to $12.61 per bushel.

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