IVORY COAST CROP, UNREST SWEETEN ALREADY BULLISH COCOA MARKET

IVORY COAST CROP, UNREST SWEETEN ALREADY BULLISH COCOA MARKET

Some traders and analysts say the top has yet to be reached in the currently bullish cocoa market but others say current levels are unsustainable.

Several bullish factors combined Monday to push cocoa prices to nine- month highs here and all-time highs in New York. Cocoa prices rose 43 to 51 here and $88 to $105 in New York on news of unrest in Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer.A weekend statement from Philipp Brothers' head cocoa trader Derek Chambers that he saw cocoa prices doubling by 1991-92 because of the opening up of Eastern Europe also stimulated bullish sentiment.

"The market did what the market wanted to do," one trader said. "It wanted higher levels, and it just happened that real fundamental news - the Ivory Coast incident - coincided with the Phibro statement in the paper.

''By itself the Phibro comment wouldn't have moved the market, as everyone knows that's what Mr. Chambers thinks and most don't agree." Other traders concurred, one saying, "Eastern Europe is definitely a huge market, but in 1991-92 they will still be worrying about bread, not chocolate."

The Ivory Coast situation was considered by traders to be a more genuinely bullish factor. The government of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny has come under increasing pressure to reform the economy. Since February there have been strikes and demonstrations by students, bank workers and by army recruits Monday.

Traders noted Ivory Coast has oversold its 1989-90 crop, and supply tightness will force it to either roll its commitments over to the new crop or buy cocoa on the spot market to meet contracts.

''The trade is not really so nervous about the Ivory Coast political situation," one analyst said. "Houphouet-Boigny has said he will step down in October, and we don't see there being any real problems with the cocoa supply. With prices where they are, they want to ship their crop."

But traders see Ivory Coast's over-commitment on current-crop cocoa as threatening. "They are at least 100,000 metric tons oversold," one said. While the country could roll contracts into December or January and ship new- crop cocoa, if unsuccessful they will have to buy on the cash market. "At these levels . . . that will hurt," a trader said.

The same trader pointed out that Ivory Coast has already sold around 350,000 tons of new-crop cocoa. Out of a likely crop of 750,000 tons, "that's starting to leave them short already," he added.

But another trader put the oversold figure at around 50,000 tons, and doubted the country would have any trouble getting customers to accept new- crop cocoa.

Some market sources hedged their bets when asked if current cocoa-price levels are sustainable. "The market does what it wants to do," one trader said. "We could see it 100 higher in a week or 200 lower."

But others were not so cautious. "I've always said that prices over 900 per ton basis July were unsustainable," one analyst said.

Other traders said the industry is buying at current levels as well, having missed the opportunity last week when prices were 100 lower.