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GRAINS-Weak U.S. export data drags soybeans to new lows

Karl Plume

* Soybeans fall to contract lows on low export sales

* Rain-delayed U.S. planting underpins corn

* Wheat jumps on technicals, short-covering

(Recasts throughout with U.S. market open, adds quote, updates prices; changes byline, dateline, previous SYDNEY/PARIS) CHICAGO, May 2 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures posted contract lows for a fourth straight session on Thursday after weak U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) export sales data and amid ongoing concerns that rain-delayed corn sowing would increase soy plantings. Corn was mixed as spillover pressure from lower soybeans offset support stemming from concerns about delayed planting around much of the U.S. Midwest. Wheat climbed for a second straight day on technical buying and short covering. Grain and soy prices have been steadily eroding as they await any news of concrete progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations. Officials from the two countries met in Beijing this week and will meet in Washington next week, aiming to resolve a year-long trade war that has slashed China's purchases of U.S. agricultural products, including soybeans. The USDA on Thursday reported that a net 336,929 tonnes of U.S. soybeans were sold for export last week, below trade estimates for at least 400,000 tonnes. Sales of soymeal also fell short of expectations. "The export sales really fed the bear in the soy complex," said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics. "And with the wetter weather, the trade is finally realizing that the acres in USDA's March planting intentions report are just not going to happen," he said. The USDA's March acres report, based on farmer surveys, showed a year-on-year increase in corn planting and a cut in soy acres. Spring corn planting across the heart of the U.S. farm belt is off to a slow start due to rainy weather. Forecasts for storms through most of the next two weeks have sparked concerns that more farmers would abandon corn seeding in favor of soybeans, which can be planted later in the spring.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) July soybeans were 5-1/4

cents lower at $8.46-1/4 a bushel at 12:32 p.m. CDT (1732 GMT) after posting a contract low of $8.42. Nearly all soy contracts,

including new-crop November , also hit new lows.July corn gained 2 cents to $3.70-1/2 a bushel, a

2-1/2-week high.

CBOT July wheat added 8-3/4 cents to $4.44-3/4 a

bushel, in the contract's strongest gains since mid-March. Wheat's gains were fueled by technical buying and short-covering by commodity funds, which hold a massive net short position in grains. Also supporting CBOT wheat were 324 deliveries against the

expiring May contract .

(Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; editing by David Goodman and G Crosse)