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GRAINS-Soybeans subdued as market hangs on China talks

Gus Trompiz and Naveen Thukral

* U.S. delegation starts high-level trade talks in Beijing

* Wheat falls after climbing for four sessions, corn dips

* China imported 7.38 mln tonnes of soybeans in January

* Graphic: Commodity prices in 2019:

(Updates with European trading, changes byline/dateline) Feb 14 (Reuters) - Chicago soybean futures eased on Thursday as traders awaited the outcome of trade negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials to see whether the two sides are moving towards resolving their tariff dispute. The market was also assessing latest Chinese import data, which showed an upturn in January soybean volumes, and harvest prospects in South America after forecast cuts in Brazil and upgrades in Argentina linked to contrasting weather. Corn also inched down while wheat eased after a four-session rally. Traders were also awaiting direction from U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales figures for the week to Jan. 3, as the agency continues to clear a backlog caused by a U.S. government shutdown. The most-active soybean contract on the Chicago Board Of Trade was down 0.3 percent at $9.13-1/2 a bushel by 1255 GMT. CBOT wheat was down 0.8 percent at $5.18 a bushel, and corn edged down 0.2 percent at $3.78. "Soybean prices seem to have settled back into the range trading that has characterised the market since the start of December," said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. "We continue to think the bean market has some potential to force itself out of this range. U.S. farmers' planting choices, and the related U.S.-China trade negotiations, have the potential to create a hefty shift in the market's collective view about oilseed supply." U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday trade talks with China were "going along very well", having a day earlier suggested the possibility of extending a March 1 deadline for a deal. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer started discussions on Thursday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the top economic adviser to Chinese President Xi Jinping, after arriving in Beijing.

China, the world's largest soybean buyer, imported 7.38 million tonnes of soybeans in January, up 29 percent from December, figures from the General Administration of Customs of China showed. The data did not provide a breakdown of suppliers but the volume is expected to include U.S. supplies after China bought several million tonnes from U.S. exporters as part of its truce with Washington. Still, China's growing reliance on South American soybeans could be reinforced by a strong harvest in the region. Argentina's next soy crop is expected to reach 52 million tonnes, against 50 million tonnes previously forecast, the Rosario Grains Exchange said on Wednesday. Doubts remain about Brazil's harvest after forecasters scaled back estimates due to hot, dry conditions, although milder conditions this month could limit losses.

Prices at 1255 GMT

Last Change Pct End Ytd PctMove 2018 MoveCBOT wheat 518.00 -4.25 -0.81 503.25 2.93CBOT corn 378.00 -0.75 -0.20 375.00 0.80CBOT soy 913.50 -3.00 -0.33 895.00 2.07Paris wheat Mar 200.25 -1.00 -0.50 203.25 -1.48Paris maize Mar 175.50 0.25 0.14 180.25 -2.64Paris rape Feb 367.50 -0.50 -0.14 365.25 0.62WTI crude oil 54.39 0.49 0.91 45.41 19.78Euro/dlr 1.13 0.00 0.02 1.1469 -1.76

Most active contracts - Wheat, corn and soy US cents/bushel, Paris futures in euros per tonne

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Jan Harvey)