* Weekly cotton exports hit 472,700 bales, China top buyer
* Futures end week little changed after volatility
* China imports 141,200 tonnes in Oct., down year/year
NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Cotton futures edged up on Friday on strong U.S. government export sales data, and ended the week little changed after a volatile week of spread-related gyrations.
The most-active March cotton contract on ICE Futures U.S. rose 74 cents, nearly 1 percent, to settle at 78.20 cents a lb.
The second-month ended the week little changed after touching a 10-month low of 77.37 cents the previous day.
Front-month December cotton on ICE closed up 6 cents, or 0.8 percent, at 77.12 cents per lb.
The spot December contract was little changed from last Friday’s close after surging earlier this week on short-covering ahead of next week’s first notice day for delivery against the contract.
Financial markets rose on expectations of continued stimulus by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The U.S. dollar index fell on the day, lending support to dollar-traded commodities as it makes them less expensive to holders of other currencies.
The Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity CRB index rose.
A U.S. government weekly report showing strong export sales drove short-covering and kept sellers on the defensive.
U.S. weekly upland cotton exports rose to 472,700 running bales, led by demand from top consumer China.
“Demand has been brisk over the past ten days, as numerous large sales of U.S., Australian, West African and Brazilian cotton have been reported, with China actively participating,” Peter Egli, director of risk management for British merchant Plexus Cotton Ltd, said in a market report.
Mill buying has picked up as prices have tumbled some 9 percent from above 86 cents last month.
An even steeper tumble from one-year highs near 94 cents in August has come as speculators slashed bullish bets and switched to a net short position in fiber.
Dealers expected an announcement from Beijing on the start of state reserve auctions within days, Reuters reported.
The country’s stockpiling program has driven voracious demand for imports and put a floor under global prices.
China has been considering overhauling the program, and the country’s cotton imports so far this season are down from last year.
Exchange stocks rose to 193,027 bales on Thursday, the most since July, according to the most recent exchange data compiled by Reuters.
December’s discount against the March contract narrowed to as low as 0.34 cents a lb on Tuesday from a peak of 2.28 cents a lb earlier this month amid the week’s spread-related volatility. (Reporting by Chris Prentice. Editing by Andre Grenon)