GRAINS-Edge higher in thin pre-holiday trade
* U.S. soy, wheat up 0.2 pct, corn gains 0.4 pct
* Bargain buying supports soybeans after last week's losses
* Wheat firms on U.S. crop concerns, Argentine output
(Updates with fresh analyst comment, previous dateline PARIS/SINGAPORE) WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Dec 24 (Reuters) - U.S. grains edged higher on Monday in thin trading ahead of the Christmas holiday, modestly recovering from the previous week's sharp losses. Chicago corn futures gained on expectations of a rebound in demand for U.S. supplies, after dropping last week to their lowest level since early July. Soybeans were steady, underpinned by bargain hunting after prices slid to a one-month low last week, while wheat got a boost from concerns that dry weather was hurting the U.S. winter crop. Trading volumes were thin, with many participants inactive ahead of Tuesday's Christmas holiday. "People will keep an even keel position unless they see something" to give direction, said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics in Lafayette, Indiana. "There's not a lot of information." Slight weakness in the U.S. dollar was mildly supportive to grains priced in that currency, while stock markets traded a bit lower. Corn for March delivery gained 2-3/4 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $7.04-3/4 a bushel at 9:12 a.m. CST (1511 GMT). The front-month corn contract last week dropped to its lowest since early July on softer demand for U.S. cargoes. A forecast for the biggest U.S. corn acreage since 1936 from closely watched private analytics firm Informa Economics also dragged down prices. "The U.S. hasn't been competitive in the corn export market, but around $7 a bushel it starts getting competitive again," said Victor Thianpiriya, an agricultural strategist at ANZ in Singapore. Chicago January soybeans rose 2-3/4 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $14.33-1/2 a bushel. Last week the contract closed down more than 4 percent, its steepest weekly decline since mid-November. The soybean market has been weighed down by signs of weakening demand from China, the world's top importer, which has canceled U.S. cargoes on hopes of cheaper supplies from South America early next year. "It is a bit of a rebound from oversold levels after the market got spooked The weather in Brazil's soybean areas has generally been favourable for the crop, and the harvest is expected to kick off by early January, according to agronomists. March wheat added 1-1/2 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $7.93-1/2 a bushel. The wheat market was underpinned by concern that drought would curb the U.S. winter wheat crop. The first major snowstorm of winter did little to ease the drought, which is the worst in more than 50 years in the crop-growing U.S. Central Plains and Midwest. Traders were also digesting news Friday from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that large speculators had increased their net short position in CBOT wheat to the largest level since May. Such a large short position could potentially be bullish for wheat if weather conditions worsen and prompt investors to cover some shorts, Zuzolo said. Argentina's Agriculture Ministry has cut its estimate for 2012/13 wheat production by 5 percent to 10.5 million tonnes, which is still higher than leading private forecasts but reflects damage caused by wet weather.
Trading in Chicago grains will end at noon CST (1800 GMT) on Monday, two hours earlier than usual.
Prices at 9:12 a.m. CST (1511 GMT)
LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG CBOT corn 704.75 2.75 0.4% 9.0% CBOT soy 1433.50 2.75 0.2% 19.6% CBOT meal 435.00 1.20 0.3% 40.6% CBOT soyoil 48.75 0.04 0.1% -6.4% CBOT wheat 793.50 1.50 0.2% 21.6% CBOT rice 1516.00 -4.50 -0.3% 3.8% EU wheat 255.25 0.75 0.3% 26.0%US crude 88.42 -0.24 -0.3% -10.5% Dow Jones 13,160 -30 -0.2% 7.7% Gold 1661.40 5.31 0.3% 6.2% Euro/dollar 1.3208 0.0021 0.2% 2.0% Dollar Index 79.5340 -0.0830 -0.1% -0.8% Baltic Freight 699 -1 -0.1% -59.8%
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; additional reporting by Valerie Parent in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Jane Baird and John Wallace)