U.S. cotton sales soared to a marketing year high when the USDA released its weekly export sales report early Thursday, according to Dow Jones newswires.

Net upland sales of 417,200 running bales - a marketing-year high - were 12 percent above the week earlier and 39 percent over the prior four-week average as of Feb. 3., the USDA said.

The major buyers were China with 159,000 running bales, Turkey with 69,300, Pakistan with 47,000, Indonesia with 24,600, Taiwan with 23,700 and Thailand with 20,700.

Sales of 17,300 running bales for delivery in 2005-06 were mainly for Mexico, which took 13,200.

Exports of 243,300 running bales were 2 percent below the previous week and 4 percent under the prior four-week average. The primary destinations were Turkey with 45,900 running bales, Mexico with 40,900, Thailand with 25,600, Indonesia with 25,100 and China with 19,100.

Some market sources expected sales in excess of 500,000 bales while others said a range of around 375,000 bales was likely with shipments expected around 320,000 to 350,000 bales.

Net American Pima sales of 20,100 running bales were primarily to Pakistan with 4,100, China with 3,900, Indonesia with 3,200 and Japan with 2,800.

Exports of 30,100 running bales were mainly to Pakistan with 10,400, India with 3,800, Taiwan with 3,400 and Peru with 3,100.