UPDATE 2-N. American Q4, FY cocoa grind rises, stocks 2014 optimism
* N. American cocoa grind up 4.4 pct in Q4 - NCA
* U.S. 2013 cocoa grind highest on record - analyst
By Marcy Nicholson
NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters) - North American cocoa bean grindings rose by 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter and processing for the full year grew at its fastest pace in three years, data showed on Thursday, reinforcing confidence about chocolate demand in 2014.
The rising amount of cocoa processing was driven by increased interest in butter, a byproduct of grinding beans that gives chocolate its melt-in-the-mouth texture, while powder sales lagged, dealers said.
The grind data, a traditional gauge of demand for chocolate's key ingredient, climbed to 125,332 tonnes, up 4.37 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012, National Confectioners Association (NCA) data showed.
That was slightly below the estimated 5 percent to 7.4 percent rise. One U.S. trader said most forecasts were at the upper end of the range around 7 percent.
On the surface that could be bearish, but it was the fifth straight quarter of gains and the total was the highest for the fourth quarter in North America since at least 2009, when the NCA first added Canadian and Mexican to its data.
"It's still showing growth in the market here," the trader said. Continued...