ICE cotton futures fell over 1% on Friday en route to its biggest weekly decline in five weeks as an escalation in US-China tensions cast doubts over demand for the natural fiber.

Cotton contracts for July fell 0.46 cent, or 0.8%, at 57.60 cents per lb by 01:55 p.m. ET (1755 GMT), on track to record its worst week since April 17.

“The contract is down mainly because of the escalation in US-China trade war and we've reached a price level where it is not attractive anymore, so we have to go down," Louis Barbera, partner and analyst at VLM Commodities LTD said.

“Under 57 cents, we will see a big purchase and prices will go up from there."

President Donald Trump's rhetoric against China's plan for a national security law in Hong Kong on Thursday raised concerns over Washington and Beijing reneging on their phase-1 trade deal. A protracted trade rift between the two economies have raised concerns among investors over demand as the US is the biggest exporter of cotton, while China is its biggest consumer.

However, the latest US Department of Agriculture's weekly export sales data confirmed higher purchases from China for the week ending May 14. “The Chinese need it and it's cheap and this will also help them to keep the phase 1 deal," Barbera said, adding, if China keeps buying at this rate, cotton could cross the 60 cents level in another 3 weeks.

Lockdowns and disruption in economic activities due to the global coronavirus pandemic have led the contract to fall nearly 17% so far this year.

Total futures market volume fell by 13,356 to 12,960 lots. Data showed total open interest gained 2,553 to 182,337 contracts in the previous session.

Copyright Reuters, 2020