COCOA ON ROLLER COASTER CURRENTLY POINTING DOWN

COCOA ON ROLLER COASTER CURRENTLY POINTING DOWN

What went up is coming down, cocoa traders and analysts say, although the fall will be nowhere near as dramatic as the rise.

Cocoa futures both here and in New York fell through the major chart uptrend line, which began February, with July futures 150 (US$89.28) below the contract highs set only 2 weeks ago.Selling from a French trade house sent the market reeling Wednesday morning. Prices were down an average of $40 a metric ton with the July futures contract at New York closing $36 lower to $1,315.

But although the trend line has been breached, the trade says market fundamentals will sustain prices well above 14-year lows seen at the start of the year.

''The sentiment in the market has changed very rapidly," one trader said. "Things have calmed down in the Ivory Coast, we've had the Russians ask for credit on cocoa that has already been shipped, the pod count in West Africa is up - and this has all happened very quickly, over only 2 weeks or so."

Another trade source said: "Everyone believed the market was overdone on the upside, and now we're in the throes of the major correction that we all knew was coming. The problem is that it's very difficult to predict what the market will do for the next several weeks.

"We're in the 'silly season' before we have any really accurate crop estimates and the market is still very volatile. It will overreact to any kind of hard news until we get a better handle on the new crop and the underlying situation."

The underlying political and agricultural problems that supported the meteoric rise to highs have now eased considerably and this is reflected by the market.

''Just 2 weeks ago there were bullish estimates on the size of the West African crop," one analyst said, "but the rains have come and now there are definite indications the crop is improving rapidly. People forget the speed at which these crops recover from adverse conditions with just a little bit of the right weather."

Trade nervousness over the political situation on Ivory Coast has eased. ''Ivory Coast has legalized opposition parties, schools have re-opened, and there have been no more strikes," one trader said. "As things have calmed down there they have calmed in the marketplace as well."

Traders see the Soviet Union's request for 12 months' credit on current contracts as weighing on the market as well. "There are rumors that the Soviets will re-sell the cocoa they already have," one trader said. "If that comes to pass, that's another 70,000 tons or so that the market will have to

absorb."

But other traders see this as unlikely. "They need the cocoa they have," one source said. "And they need to take delivery of the rest of the cocoa they have contracted for. I understand that they need foreign currency, but if there is no chocolate in the Soviet Union when Christmas starts coming, there will be problems."

Traders and analysts differ over price levels in the coming weeks, but all see them moving significantly lower.

One analyst, who was quoted at the height of the bull run as saying, ''Cocoa prices over 900 are unsustainable," sees the level falling 100 or more. "I believe the market will trade between 700 and 900," he said. ''We should see September below 800 fairly soon."

But other traders see that as overdoing it. "In the next 3 weeks the range should fluctuate between 800 and 950," one trader said. "This is still a very nervous market, and there will be good industry buying to support prices if we get a precipitous dip."