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U.S. Cotton Exports Plunge as Soaring Prices Spook Mills

Cotton export sales more than halved this week to their lowest level since early November, sending prices to one-week lows and reinforcing concerns that the sticker shock after the fiber's five-week rally has already quashed mills' appetite for fiber.

Net exports of upland cotton totaled 93,600 running bales for the week up to Jan. 31, down 58 percent from the four-week average and off 29 percent from the previous week, when exports also fell, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Thursday.

The sales were "terrible", one U.S. broker said, coming at the height of the marketing year as China's season to end-March draws to a close and ahead of the country's Lunar New Year week-long holiday. The U.S. season will end on July 31.

Concerns about the impact of soaring prices had mounted after over 11,000 bales were canceled from China, the world's largest textile industry, in last week's data when front-month prices rallied to seven-month highs of 84 cents.

But the pace and size of the withdrawal have highlighted how quickly buyers would turn away from fiber when prices get too high.

In the week to Jan. 31, prices averaged 82 cents a pound, well above the 80-cent mark, a level considered critical for mills' appetite for raw material.

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