GRAINS-Wheat rallies on better-than-expected U.S. export data
* Weekly U.S. wheat sales data prompts short-covering
* CBOT wheat still on track for weekly decline
* Soybeans turn up on technicals, firm cash market
* Corn edges higher in choppy trade
(New throughout; updates with U.S. trading; changes dateline from AMSTERDAM/SINGAPORE, changes byline) CHICAGO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Wheat futures rose 1.5 percent on Friday, halting a three-day slide as better-than-expected weekly U.S. export sales triggered a round of short-covering, but the market was still on track for a weekly loss. Soybeans advanced on firm cash markets and were poised for a third successive week of gains, supported by strong Chinese demand and prolonged dryness in Argentina, while corn edged higher in choppy trade. At the Chicago Board of Trade as of 10:24 a.m. CST (1624 GMT), March wheat was up 11-1/2 cents, or 1.5 percent, at $7.80 per bushel. March soybeans were up 8-1/2 cents, 0.6 percent, at $14.43-3/4 a bushel and March corn was up 2 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $7.26-1/4 a bushel. Wheat posted the biggest percentage rise. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported export sales of U.S. wheat in the latest week at 647,500 tonnes, including 572,500 tonnes for the current marketing year that began June 1, 2012. The combined-year total topped a range of trade expectations for 350,000 to 550,000 tonnes. "The export sales today were super for wheat," said Jack Scoville, grains analyst at The Price Group in Chicago. "The wheat demand for soft red wheat ought to be picking up, too, because it's relatively cheap," Scoville said. Also, commodity funds hold a net short position in CBOT wheat, leaving the market open to periodic bouts of short-covering. Ongoing concerns about dry conditions in the southern U.S. Plains hard winter wheat belt added support, buoying Kansas City Board of Trade hard wheat futures. Kansas is generally the top U.S. wheat-growing state, but the new crop planted last fall has been struggling with a lack of soil moisture. Parts of the central and southeastern Plains should receive precipitation in the first half of next week, the Commodity Weather Group said in a daily note to clients. "However," CWG said, "amounts will be too light in the Plains for notable drought relief, and the outlook is a bit drier in the northwestern Midwest today as well." Despite Friday's rally, CBOT March wheat was on track for a weekly loss of 1.7 percent, following a two-week advance.
SOYBEANS FIRM Soybean futures rose, led by nearby contracts, on firm cash markets and some light technical buying after early attempts to sell the market stalled. The March soybean contract dipped to $14.26 in early moves but failed to drop below chart support at the contract's 50-day moving average near $14.25. Nearby soybean contracts gained against deferred months on spreads in a reversal from Thursday's close. CBOT soybeans for November delivery, representing the 2013 U.S. soybean harvest, fell on Friday after rallying Thursday amid talk of another round of fresh buying by China for delivery in 2013/14. USDA this week confirmed U.S. and optional-origin sales totaling 743,000 tonnes for 2013/14 delivery to China and unknown destinations, which traders said was likely China. "The soybean market is supported by a large demand especially from Asia," French analyst Agritel said in a daily note. Soybeans have added 0.7 percent this week, the market's third straight week of gains, while corn is down 0.1 percent this week after rallying for the two previous weeks.
Prices at 10:23 a.m. CST (1623 GMT)
LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG CBOT corn 726.25 2.00 0.3% 4.0% CBOT soy 1443.25 8.00 0.6% 1.7% CBOT meal 417.70 3.00 0.7% -0.7% CBOT soyoil 52.21 0.09 0.2% 6.2% CBOT wheat 780.25 11.75 1.5% 0.3% CBOT rice 1536.00 7.50 0.5% 3.4% EU wheat 249.00 2.25 0.9% -0.5%US crude 95.76 -0.2 -0.2% 4.3% Dow Jones 13,850 24 0.2% 5.7% Gold 1661.04 -6.32 -0.4% -0.8% Euro/dollar 1.3457 0.0083 0.6% 2.0% Dollar Index 79.7650 -0.1840 -0.2% 0.0% Baltic Freight 798 -10 -1.2% 14.2%
(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac in Amsterdam and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing