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GRAINS-Markets hesitant as export data, trade developments awaited

Gus Trompiz

* Soybeans inch up as U.S.-China trade optimism persists

* Corn also firm amid talk of proposed Chinese imports

* Wheat flat after volatile week, USDA export data eyed

(Updates with European trading, changes byline/dateline) PARIS, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Chicago soybean and corn futures edged higher on Friday but gains were limited as investors waited for firmer indications that Washington and Beijing were making progress towards a trade agreement that could boost Chinese imports of U.S. crops. Wheat was flat after a volatile week, with traders seeking further information about exports when the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases six weeks' worth of sales figures to clear a backlog caused by a government shutdown. The most-active soybean contract on the Chicago Board of Trade was up 0.2 percent at $9.13 a bushel by 1302 GMT. CBOT corn was up 0.5 percent at $3.77-1/4 and wheat was unchanged on the day at $4.91. Top U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators haggled on Thursday over the details of a set of agreements aimed at ending their trade war, just one week before a Washington-imposed deadline for a deal expires and triggers higher U.S. tariffs.

Traders said hopes fuelled by a Bloomberg report on Thursday that China is expected to propose buying an additional $30 billion of U.S. agricultural imports annually were tempered by a comment from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that such purchases would depend on an overall trade deal.

Grain markets were also bracing for the USDA's catch-up export sales publication, with the long period covered leading to broad estimates from analysts. "These estimates are wide and are a further evidence of current uncertainties," consultancy Agritel said in a note. Wheat fell to a seven-month low earlier this week as an absence of U.S. wheat offers in an Egyptian tender stoked concern about weak overseas demand.

Grain markets were also digesting USDA supply and demand forecasts for the 2019/20 season. U.S. farmers will plant 92 million acres of corn this spring, up from 89.1 million last year, while reducing the soybean area to 85 million acres from 89.2 million in 2018, the agency projected on Thursday. In separate estimates on Friday, the USDA forecast lower corn and soybean stockpiles at the end of 2019/20.

Prices at 1302 GMT

Last Change Pct End Ytd PctMove 2018 MoveCBOT wheat 491.00 0.00 0.00 503.25 -2.43CBOT corn 377.25 1.75 0.47 375.00 0.60CBOT soy 913.00 2.00 0.22 895.00 2.01Paris wheat May 194.50 0.00 0.00 205.00 -5.12Paris maize Mar 173.75 0.25 0.14 180.25 -3.61Paris rape Feb 361.75 0.00 0.00 365.25 -0.96WTI crude oil 57.52 0.56 0.98 45.41 26.67Euro/dlr 1.13 0.00 -0.13 1.1469 -1.31

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

(Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Kirsten Donovan)