SOFTS-Arabica coffee falls further from 2-year high, sugar firms
* Arabica prices seen high until crop damage clearer-analyst
* Raw sugar consolidates after falling from 4-mth high
* ICE cocoa prices are below 2-1/2-year high (New throughout, updates closing prices; adds analyst comment, second byline, NEW YORK dateline)
By Marcy Nicholson and David Brough
NEW YORK/LONDON, March 19 (Reuters) - Arabica coffee futures on ICE tumbled 3 percent on Wednesday, sinking further from last week's two-year high as forecasts for much-needed rain in top grower Brazil attracted investor selling, while raw sugar consolidated higher.
Liffe cocoa futures inched up in thin dealings to contract highs while the ICE Futures U.S. market flirted with Monday's 2-1/2-year peak, boosted by strong consumption growth that was expected to outstrip supply.
Arabica coffee is on track for its first week lower in eight weeks, giving back major gains made in the past two months that saw prices push up as much as 85 percent since the start of the year due to a crop-damaging drought in Brazil. Total open interest has climbed steadily over the past eight sessions to a 4-1/2-month high at 171,534 lots on March 18, exchange data showed.
May arabica coffee futures on ICE closed down 6.05 cents or 3.2 percent, at $1.8550 per lb. The second month peaked at $2.0975 last week, its highest level since February 2012.
"If sufficient rains come in Brazil, this might take some of the weather premium out of the market, although some irreversible damage has certainly been done," said Birgit Wippler, soft commodities analyst with F.O. Licht. Continuación...