GRAINS-China data, weak crude pressure soybeans; wheat, corn firm
* Slower growth in China may dampen soybean demand
* U.S. wheat firms on bargain buying
* Firm dollar hangs over grains market
(Recasts first paragraph, updates with U.S. trading, adds analyst's quote, byline, dateline, pvs LONDON) CHICAGO, March 1 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures dropped early on Friday along with falling crude oil prices, pressured The U.S. Agriculture Department's announcement of another sale of U.S. soy to the world's top buyer of the oilseed kept losses in check, however. Wheat futures firmed as bargain buyers entered the market with prices trending near eight-month lows. Corn also edged higher, rebounding from an early decline, as the market found support at the 30-day moving average. A firm U.S. dollar, which makes U.S. commodities less attractive to investors looking for a hedge against inflation, limited the gains. "The outside factors are against us today," said William Fordham, president of C&S Grain Market Consulting. At 9:59 a.m. CST (1559 GMT), CBOT May soybeans were down 5-3/4 cents at $14.46-1/2 a bushel. The spot contract is on track for a weekly gain of 0.5 percent CBOT May wheat was up 4-1/4 cents at $7.18-3/4 a bushel, while CBOT May corn rose 2-1/2 cents to $7.06 bushel. Corn futures were up 4.7 percent for the week, on track to snap a streak of three straight losing weeks and for their biggest weekly gain since July. Wheat futures have lost 0.6 percent this week and have shed 10.1 percent of their value during a six-week losing streak. The dollar index hit a six-month high on Friday as weak euro zone data highlighted a growing economic disparity with the United States. Growth in Chinese factories cooled in February to a five-month low after domestic and foreign demand slackened, an official government survey showed on Friday, missing market forecasts. "China is the world's largest soybean consumer, so further signs of an economic slowdown are going to dampen the demand for the commodity," said Ker Chung Yang, senior investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore. Private exporters reported the sale of 120,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans to China for delivery during the 2013/14 marketing year, the USDA said early on Friday. USDA has reported four soybean sales to China, totalling 483,000 tonnes this week. The U.S. grains complex has been buoyed by demand for exports and lengthy vessel loading delays in Brazil, which has prompted China to cancel soy cargoes ordered from Brazil and buy from the United States instead. "The focus in the market...has turned back to old crop tightness and the stronger outlook for grain exports from the United States," Rabobank analyst Nick Higgins said.
Prices at 9:59 a.m. CST (1559 GMT)
LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG CBOT corn 723.50 4.00 0.6% 3.6% CBOT soy 1469.00 -5.25 -0.4% 3.5% CBOT meal 433.20 -1.60 -0.4% 3.0% CBOT soyoil 48.68 -0.14 -0.3% -1.0% CBOT wheat 711.75 4.00 0.6% -8.5% CBOT rice 1568.00 18.00 1.2% 5.5% EU wheat 249.00 0.75 0.3% -0.5%US crude 90.85 -1.2 -1.3% -1.1% Dow Jones 14,069 14 0.1% 7.4% Gold 1577.09 -2.67 -0.2% -5.8% Euro/dollar 1.2986 -0.0070 -0.5% -1.6% Dollar Index 82.4240 0.4750 0.6% 3.3% Baltic Freight 776 19 2.5% 11.0%
In U.S. cents, benchmark contracts, except EU wheat (euros) and soymeal (dollars). CBOT wheat, corn and soybeans per bushel, rice per hundredweight, soymeal per ton and soyoil per lb.
(Additional reporting by Nigel Hunt and Natalie Huet in London, Lewa Pardomuan in Singapore and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Peter Galloway)