US/Turkey Dispute, Seasonal Fundamentals Could Sink Cotton Prices

US/Turkey Dispute, Seasonal Fundamentals Could Sink Cotton Prices



US/Turkey Dispute, Seasonal Fundamentals Could Sink Cotton Prices

Higher cotton prices looking unlikely into years end
Selling call options could be solid play for cash yield

I am a strong proponent of NEVER trying to trade off of mainstream news stories. That being said, this does not mean there can’t be less obvious, fundamentally based plays as a result of such stories.

In this month’s update, we present a new opportunity for selling options in the Cotton market.

The latest trade dispute between the US and Turkey has roiled currency markets for the past week. As a result of President Trump doubling steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, the Lira is crashing vs. the dollar. Pundits are wringing their hands about possible “contagion.”

Good luck trying to trade that. That has more moving parts than a Swiss watch.

One thing for sure however is that the US/Turkey relationship is strained, and not just on the economic front. A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal suggests that Turkey should be expelled from NATO.

What Does This Have to do with Cotton?

Turkey is a key importer of US cotton. For the first 6 months of 2018, the country imported$563 million worth of US cotton, a little over 10% of all US cotton exports. The US is the top supplier of cotton to the Turkish market, accounting for of 30% of all Turkish cotton imports. It is likely that as a result of the recent tension, Turkey shifts at least some of its cotton business away from the US . Or, they could choose to respond by slapping additional import duties on US cotton – potentially having a more outsized effect.

pie graph- Top five markets make up 53 percent of US cotton exportsTurkey accounts for over 10% of all US Cotton Exports

Does this have a major impact on US cotton prices? Possibly. At the very least, it’s not a bullish development for US cotton prices. This is especially true considering that top US importer China is already shifting its cotton orders beyond US shores.

And given the other challenges cotton prices face in the months ahead, it could be a scale tipper.

US Ending Stocks Highest in 10 Years

As you will discover in our video tutorial on US Agricultural Fundamentals, Ending Stocks are a key figure in deciphering the supply demand balance in these types of commodities.

The USDA ramped up projected 2018/19 US Cotton Ending Stocks to 4.60 million bales in its August Supply/Demand report. This will be the highest US ending stocks since 2008. The jump in projected stocks was largely the result of ideal weather amping up fat yields across much of the US (despite some loss of acreage in drought ravaged West Texas.)

Graph: US Cotton Ending Stocks

US Cotton Ending Stocks will be the highest in 10 years for the 2018/19 crop year.

While world stocks falling slightly from last year will likely prevent a glut, the US supply picture presents a backdrop of adequate supply. This is typically enough to keep a lid on surging price rallies.

But cotton prices have another, more immediate factor with which to contend. And it’s not friendly to the bulls.

It’s the time of year.

The Harvest Seasonal

Seasonal price tendencies can be powerful forces for agricultural commodities.

In the US, commodities such ascorn, (spring) wheat, oats, soybeans and cotton are planted in the spring, grown in the summer and are harvested in the fall.

As the crop is harvested and goes “into the barn,” supplies will tend to build. In fact, at no time during the year will supplies be higher than the time immediately after harvest. As a result, economics 101 dictates that when supplies are most ample, prices will reach their lowest levels.

This basic economic function often plays out over and over again in the US Agricultural markets. And it happens on an annual basis.

Cotton is no exception.

As harvest progresses into fall, supplies tend to build and prices tend to fall. This tendency is illustrated in the seasonal chart below.

Graph December - 5 yr seasonal

Cotton prices have historically tended to decline through the US autumn harvest.(past performance not indicative of future results.)

Conclusion and Strategy

With September approaching and the US cotton harvest now around the corner, seasonal tendencies favor the bears. Prices have historically tended to decline into harvest.

With 2018/19 US cotton ending stocks now surging to the highest projected levels in a decade, supplies appear ample for the upcoming crop year.

The US/Turkey trade dispute will not help cotton prices. Regardless of currency swings, the end result is likely less US cotton exports to Turkey – a key importer of US cotton.

Does this mean cotton prices are set for a tumble? Not necessarily. Prices have fallen nearly 14% since May highs. In addition, the market may have already priced much of the expected higher ending stocks.

That being said, it now appears unlikely the cotton can stage a significant price rally into the end of the year. The US crop is all but “made” and thus now out of danger. Any major yield surprises are unlikely going forward. And prices will be fighting seasonal forces for the duration of the year.

This is a solid set up for call sellers.

In our managed accounts, we’ll be targeting deep out of the money strikes on limited price rallies over the next 30 days.

March 2019 Cotton

GRAPH: March 2019 Cotton

Selling the March Cotton 1.00 call option

Self directed traders can consider selling call strikes above the June highs, 6-8 months out. Such an option might be theMarch Cotton 1.00 call for premiums of$500+. Margin requirement is now approximately$1,160. This means a roughly 43% return on equity if the trade is successful.

Remember, to profit from selling a call, cotton prices do not necessarily have to fall. They only have to not rise substantially prior to expiration.

Given the challenges cotton prices now face, that seems like a solid bet.

James Cordier is president and head trader of, a wealth management firm specializing exclusively in option selling portfolios for high net worth investors. He is author of McGraw-Hill’s The Complete Guide to Option Selling , 1st, 2nd and 3rd Editions. For more information on managed accounts with James Cordier and, visit for a Free Investor Information Pack.

  1. Ed Parise Says:
    August 20, 2018 at 1:31 am

    A plausible and informative commentary. Thanks for the hands-on input that you share with others willing to learn. Your views and insights expressed in the newsletter are also much appreciated.

    Happy to have found your organization.

    Many thanks

  2. Rupen Shah Says:
    August 16, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Another great and informative article. I see you have not covered coffee this year yet? Is this because it has not setup for option selling?

    • Michael Gross Says:
      August 22, 2018 at 11:05 am


      You will see Coffee featured in our September Newsletter, slated to go out Friday, August 31.

      Thank you.

  3. I absolutely love your articles. Great insights into markets and amazing suggestions for self directed traders like myself. Also, I always look forward for your biweekly educational videos. Awesome stuff.


  4. great research, James, thank you! what about soybeans? you thought of selling PUTs on soybeans recently – do you still think this is the case after last USDA report? thanks

    • Michael Gross Says:
      August 22, 2018 at 11:10 am


      We stated in July that we thought the markets made had overshot on the low side in pricing in potential Chinese tariffs. However, the fundamentals of soybeans are those of excess supply, especially after the August report. We think there may be opportunities on both sides of beans in Q3 and Q4.


  5. Andrew Hughes Says:
    August 16, 2018 at 1:22 am

    Dear James, Thanks for your commentary on cotton. (16/8) The ‘contagion’ worries seem to be furthering the smash of metals. Gold, silver and copper all took a big dive overnight. You often comment on metals and they are not typically seasonal. Do you think these markets have a bottom? Also wheat and coffee. I know you like the coffee market, what is its dynamic into 2019?
    Andrew Hughes

    • Michael Gross Says:
      August 22, 2018 at 11:13 am


      Metals have been beat up pretty good lately. It is my opinion that we are approaching value levels into Q3 and Q4 – Especially with the Manafort/Cohen/Election story potentially spilling over into markets over the next 60 days.

      The coffee market will be featured in our September Newsletter.

      Thank you and good luck in your trading.

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