LONDON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Raw sugar futures on ICE were higher on Friday as the market pulled away from a 2-1/2 month low set earlier in the week, while cocoa prices eased slightly.
* March raw sugar was up 0.13 cent, or 0.9 percent, at 13.90 cents per lb at 1219 GMT.
* Dealers said potential import demand from China had helped to halt the recent slide in prices after the market fell to a 2-1/2 month low of 13.70 cents on Tuesday.
* Chinese sugar refineries are planning to lobby Beijing to increase out-of-quota sugar imports next year, according to three sources familiar with the matter, after the government took several steps to curb shipments this year.
* “The market has stalled at these levels while it pauses to ponder what some extra imports by China will do to market balances,” said Commonwealth Bank of Australia analyst Tobin Gorey in a market note.
* March white sugar was up $2.50, or 0.7 percent, at $364.00 a tonne.
* March London cocoa was down 5 pounds, or 0.35 percent, at 1,406 pounds a tonne.
* Dealers said weekly commitment of traders data later on Friday will be closely watched to see if speculators have further increased a net short position, raising the possibility of a short covering rally in the near future.
* Origin selling may, however, cap any rebound in prices with overall supplies remaining ample following last season’s huge global surplus.
* March New York cocoa was off $8, or 0.4 percent, at $1,885 a tonne.
* March robusta coffee was down $14, or 0.8 percent, at $1,726 a tonne.
* Dealers said the market was back on the defensive after a short-covering rally which saw prices climb from a low of $1,676 on Tuesday to a peak of $1,744 on Thursday.
* Favourable weather has allowed harvesting to make progress in top robusta producer Vietnam and a large crop is generally anticipated although the recent decline in prices has deterred farmer selling.
* March arabica coffee was up 0.40 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $1.2070 per lb, edging away from a 5-1/2 month low of $1.1830 set on Tuesday. (Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)