* December prices edge higher, first gain in 10 sessions
* Prices hover above Friday’s two-year lows
* Traders expect Thursday’s U.S. weekly export data to be strong
NEW YORK, July 14 (Reuters) - ICE cotton rose on Monday, stemming a nine-day rout as a speculator selling spree dried up and mills spied buying opportunities as prices hovered near last week’s two-year lows.
The benchmark December cotton contract on ICE Futures U.S. closed up 0.18 cent, or 0.3 percent, at 68.30 cents a lb.
Until Monday, the December contract had fallen every day for two weeks as speculators switched to a bearish stance on expectations for a bumper U.S. crop and ballooning inventories.
Traders now expect weekly U.S. government export data due on Thursday will show that low prices are kindling demand.
“We got so cheap that mills have been buying. That’s a friendly factor,” said Sharon Johnson, a cotton specialist with KCG Futures in Georgia.
The second-month has slumped 7 percent so far in July and sank as low as 67.10 cents a lb on Friday, the second-month contract’s weakest since June 2012.
Prices hit that low after the U.S. government forecast world inventories would reach a record 105.7 million 480-lb bales and that U.S. inventories will reach a six-year high of 5.2 million bales by the end of July 2015.
Prices have since pared losses.
“Could that report have been any more bearish? I don’t think so. But a lot of it wasn’t that much of a surprise,” Johnson said of Friday’s report. (Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Tom Brown)