GRAINS-Corn, wheat turn up on short-covering at month's end

(Recasts throughout; updates prices, adds quotes; changes byline, dateline, previous PARIS/SINGAPORE) CHICAGO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - U.S. corn and wheat futures climbed nearly 1 percent on Wednesday as fund-driven short-covering at the end of the month overshadowed disappointing export sales data, analysts said. Soybean futures fell, led by soyoil, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2019 blending requirement for soy-based biodiesel fuel remained unchanged from 2018. As of 12:36 p.m. CST (1836 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade March corn futures were up 3 cents at $3.56-1/2 per bushel. CBOT March wheat was up 3-1/4 cents at $4.38 a bushel while January soybeans were down 6-1/4 cents at $9.86-1/4 a bushel. Corn firmed for a second straight session. Commodity funds hold massive net short positions in both corn and wheat, leaving those markets vulnerable to short-covering rallies. "We've rebounded nicely, despite the lack of any news or the appearance of export demand. It's fund short-covering that has given us a rally here," said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported export sales of U.S. corn in the latest week at 599,200 tonnes, below a range of trade expectations for 700,000 to 1,100,000 tonnes.

Weekly wheat sales totaled 187,400 tonnes (old and new crop years combined), also below expectations. However, through its daily reporting system, the USDA said private exporters sold 110,000 tonnes of U.S. sorghum to China, a factor that lent support to corn futures. Sorghum competes with corn as a feed grain. "It just shows Chinese demand for grains is greater than what people anticipated," Terry Reilly, senior commodity analyst with Futures International, said of the sorghum sale. For soybeans, weekly U.S. export sales totaled 942,900 tonnes, in line with trade expectations. But CBOT soybean futures fell on pressure from improving South American weather and the EPA's biofuel mandates. The EPA set a 2019 target for soy-based biodiesel at 2.1 billion gallons, unchanged from 2018, a factor that disappointed those hoping for an increase. CBOT benchmark January soyoil futures climbed to a near two-week high of 34.68 cents per pound in early moves, but turned lower after the EPA's announcement. "The bull traders didn't get what they wanted, which was a higher mandate set by the EPA for 2019 biodiesel," Reilly said.

CBOT prices as of 12:40 p.m. CST (1840 GMT):

Last Net Pct Volume

change change

CBOT wheat Wc2 438.25 3.50 0.8 77953 CBOT corn Cc2 356.50 3.00 0.9 152455 CBOT soybeans Sc1 986.25 -6.25 -0.6 97291 CBOT soymeal SMc2 326.50 -0.80 -0.2 56092 CBOT soyoil BOc2 33.82 -0.25 -0.7 81198

NOTE: CBOT March wheat, March corn and January soybeans shown in cents per bushel, January soymeal in dollars per short ton and January soyoil in cents per lb.

(Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris; editing by David Evans and Tom Brown)