GRAINS-Soy up on exports, biodiesel hopes; corn hits contract lows

(Updates prices, adds comments; changes byline, dateline, previously SYDNEY/PARIS)

CHICAGO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures edged higher on Thursday, lifted by strong export demand, gains in soyoil prices and smaller pod count findings on an annual U.S. crop tour, traders said.

Grain futures were mixed, with corn reversing from earlier modest gains to notch life-of-contract lows on technical selling and ample supplies. CBOT wheat contracts also hit lifetime lows while MGEX spring wheat was higher.

Soybeans for November delivery climbed 6-1/2 cents to $9.44-1/2 per bushel at 10:39 a.m. CDT (1539 GMT), on pace for their biggest daily advance in a week.

CBOT September soyoil hit a nearly one-month high of 35.13 cents per pound before trimming gains. Soyoil has climbed since a U.S. Commerce Department announcement on Tuesday that it would impose duties on imports of soy-based Argentina biodiesel that it said was unfairly subsidized.

INTL FCStone said in a client note that some analysts expected soyoil to test 40 cents per pound due to the Commerce decision.

"This, coupled with continued good Chinese demand, has the soybean market finding support," the brokerage said.

Crop scouts on the annual Farm Journal Midwest Crop Tour found soybean pod counts lower than average in top growing regions in Illinois and the western half of Iowa. Final data from the four-day crop tour was due on Friday.

Weekly U.S. soybean export sales of more than 2 million tonnes for the shipping season that starts on Sept. 1 topped analyst estimates for 400,000 to 600,000, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed. More than half of the sales were bound for China.

CBOT December corn eased 1-1/4 cents to a contract low of $3.54-1/2 per bushel. CBOT December wheat was down 2-3/4 cents to $4.27-1/4, also a contract low, while MGEX December spring wheat gained 4-1/4 cents to $6.61-1/4.

"The supply and demand situation in the corn market looks to be another range bound, grind-it-out affair with plenty of supply abroad to meet any short-term supply short falls," Halo Commodities analyst Tregg Cronin said in a note.

"Chicago wheat has retraced the entire summer rally... and has now put wheat back into livestock rations in some parts of the United States," Cronin added.

(Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Bernadette Baum)