KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Malaysian palm oil futures fell for a fourth straight session on Thursday as lower-than-expected exports dragged on prices, with traders worried India will place more curbs on shipments from Malaysia.
India, the world's largest edible oil buyer, last week halted Malaysian palm oil imports following a row over comments by Malaysia's prime minister criticising India's religion-based citizenship law and its actions in Kashmir.
The benchmark palm oil contract for April delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange edged down 6 ringgit, or 0.2%, to 2,903 ringgit ($713.79) by the midday break.
Palm oil has fallen more than 7% so far this week after hitting a four-year intra-day peak on Friday, with gains in recent months driven by lower production and supply tightness in rival oils.
"With production seemingly improving, expect prices to continue their decline," a Kuala Lumpur-based trader said. A second trader pointed to concerns over buying by India.
The market was also awaiting more information from the signing of phase 1 of the U.S.-China trade deal, as an increase in Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans would cut China's demand for palm oil.
Malaysian palm oil exports for Jan. 1-15 rose between 3% and 5.8%, cargo surveyors Amspec Malaysia and Intertek Testing Services said on Wednesday, below expectations.
On Tuesday, the contract slumped 2.8%, the biggest fall in eight months, after Malaysia's prime minister defended his criticism of India's religion-based citizenship law and its actions in Kashmir.
India last week restricted imports of refined palm oil and informally instructed traders to stay away from product from Malaysia, the world's second biggest producer.
The move has effectively halted all purchases from top supplier Malaysia, industry and government sources told Reuters.
Palm oil also tracked losses in rival vegetable oils. Dalian's most-active soyoil contract traded down 1.6%, while its palm oil contract fell 1.2%. Soyoil prices on the Chicago Board of Trade traded flat.
Palm oil is affected by price movements in related oils as they compete for a share in the global vegetable oils market.
($1 = 4.0670 ringgit) (Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Richard Pullin)