2 Min Read
* Fiber climbs as mills spy opportunity in price dips
* "Bucket load" of on-call buying will support July prices -economist
* Speculators boost bullish bet in ICE cotton contracts -U.S. gov't
NEW YORK, April 25 (Reuters) - Cotton futures ended little-changed on Friday, although they notched a second straight weekly gain on mill buying and signs of strong demand.
The most-active July cotton contract on ICE Futures U.S. on Friday edged up 0.05 cent, or 0.05 percent, to settle at 93.25 cents a lb.
The second-month rose nearly 1 percent this week and touched a 3-1/2-week high of 93.52 cents a lb on Thursday after a strong U.S. government export sales report showed high prices did not deter buyers in China, the world's top textile market.
The strong pace of Chinese buying surprised many and reinforced worries of tight U.S. supplies as the crop year nears its close on July 31 after the country's farmers produced less than forecast.
Prices recovered from dips through the week as mills set prices on previously-booked bales, known as on-call buying.
There remains "more than a bucket load" of those sales that will continue to underpin the July contract, said Mississippi-based economist O.A. Cleveland in a market note.
Still, cash prices have weakened and new mill buying has slowed as futures prices have hovered not far from last month's two-year highs near 97 cents a lb.
"Prices have done their job in rationing cotton supplies," Cleveland said.
Speculators boosted their bullish cotton bet in the week ended April 22, weekly U.S. government data showed on Friday.
Traders have begun to fix their gaze on weather in key growing regions of the United States, including Texas, where back-to-back years of dry weather has hurt production and in 2011 helped shoot prices to historic highs above $2 a lb.
A weekly U.S. government crop report released this week showed farmers across the world's top exporter were behind plantings progress from previous years. (Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Chris Reese)