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GRAINS-Corn, wheat futures firm in late rally but end week lower

Julie Ingwersen

(Updates with closing U.S. prices) CHICAGO, April 12 (Reuters) - U.S. corn and wheat futures edged higher on Friday, lifted by a late round of short-covering and worries about planting delays following a blizzard this week, traders said. Soybean futures closed flat in dull trade. Chicago Board of Trade May corn settled up 1 cent at $3.61 per bushel, staying inside Thursday's trading range. CBOT May wheat ended up 4 cents at $4.64-1/2 a bushel and May soybeans finished unchanged at $8.95-1/4 a bushel. All three commodities posted modest weekly declines after the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday raised its U.S. and world ending stocks forecasts for corn and wheat, and traders waited for signs of progress in U.S. trade talks with top global soy buyer China. "If you look at our export profiles for grains, we are probably not on pace for corn, beans or wheat. Until we get an agreement with China, and they step in and start buying large sums of soybeans or corn, we are not going to hit the USDA numbers. And that is overhanging any rally attempts," said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions. "These big ending stocks we have likely are going to get even bigger in May or maybe the June (USDA supply/demand) report," Hoops said. Still, corn futures had underlying support from worries about planting weather in the U.S. Midwest, with soils still saturated, or even snow-covered, in western areas. The USDA is scheduled to release updated U.S. planting progress figures for corn and spring wheat on Monday. Producers have been seeding crops in a few locations. "It's really wet across parts of the western belt, like Nebraska and the Dakotas ... But there are guys planting in southwest Iowa; Missouri is going like crazy," Hoops said. "There is a lot of work being done, but the news focus has been on those wet areas, and that is providing underlying support," Hoops said. Brokers were also monitoring harvest prospects in South America. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange on Thursday raised its forecast for Argentina's soybean harvest to 55 million tonnes, a day after the Rosario exchange increased its estimate for the crop. Brazilian agricultural statistics agency Conab raised its estimates for the country's soy and corn harvests. "The corn market is heavy and there could be a record South American harvest if you combine the Brazil and Argentina crops," said Nathan Cordier at consultancy Agritel. CBOT wheat futures rose in largely technical trade. Egypt's main state wheat buyer purchased 240,000 tonnes of wheat in an international tender, including 180,000 tonnes of Romanian origin and 60,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat.

Excluding costs for ocean freight, the lowest offer in the tender was for U.S. soft red winter wheat, but when freight costs were added, the Romanian and Ukrainian wheat was cheaper.

CBOT settlement prices:

Last Net Pct Volumechange changeCBOT wheat WK9 464.50 4.00 0.9 62724CBOT corn CK9 361.00 1.00 0.3 81349CBOT soybeans SK9 895.25 0.00 0.0 69411CBOT soymeal SMK9 307.90 0.70 0.2 44906CBOT soyoil BOK9 28.95 -0.03 -0.1 28875

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

(Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; editing by James Dalgleish and Susan Thomas)