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GRAINS-Corn climbs on U.S. planting delays; wheat, soybeans also advance

Julie Ingwersen

* Forecasts call for unwanted U.S. Midwest weekend rains

* Soybeans extend rally as U.S.-China trade war fears ease

* Soy rally capped by bearish U.S. crush data

* Wheat higher; drought-hit Australia imports grain

(Recasts with updated prices, quotes, changes byline and dateline; previous SINGAPORE/PARIS) CHICAGO, May 15 (Reuters) - U.S. corn futures hit a six-week high on Wednesday on forecasts for worrisome rains in the Midwest crop belt that could signal further planting delays, analysts said. Wheat and soybean futures followed the strength in corn, although gains in soy were capped as traders considered whether seeding delays in corn could prompt farmers to shift acres to soybeans, which can be planted later. As of 12:42 p.m. CDT (1742 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade July corn was up 3-3/4 cents at $3.72-1/2 per bushel after reaching $3.80, its highest since March 29. CBOT July wheat was up 4-1/4 cents at $4.52-3/4 a bushel and July soybeans were up 4 cents at $8.35-1/2 a bushel. Corn posted the biggest advance of the three commodities on a percentage basis as forecasts called for rains to return to the U.S. Corn Belt this weekend and next week, after a few dry days. "There is some planting going on, but it looks like a pretty limited window," said Dan Cekander, president of DC Analysis. The CBOT July corn contract surged 37 cents this week, from a contract low of $3.43 on Monday to Wednesday's high of $3.80, as U.S. planting worries prompted funds to unwind a portion of their massive net short position. "We're a little bit over-extended on some big short-covering," Cekander said. "But if the (weather) forecast verifies, there is going to be some significant acreage loss." U.S. farmers seeded 30% of the U.S. 2019 corn crop by Sunday, the government said, lagging the five-year average of 66%. The soybean crop was 9% planted, behind the five-year average of 29%. CBOT soybeans extended their rally from Tuesday, after U.S. President Donald Trump eased concerns about a U.S.-China tariff war. But bearish monthly soy crushing data hung over the market, capping gains. The National Oilseed Processors Association said its U.S. members crushed 159.99 million bushels of soybeans in April, down from 170.0 million in March and below an average of analyst expectations for 161.6 million.

Also, China's sow herd fell by 22.3% in April from a year earlier, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said, underscoring the effects of an epidemic of incurable African swine fever. The decrease in China's hog herd, the world's largest, suggests a drop in global demand for soy-based animal feed. Wheat drew support from news that drought-hit Australia will import its first shipment of wheat in more than a decade, from Canada.

CBOT prices as of 12:37 p.m. CDT (1737 GMT):

Net Pct Volume

Last change change

CBOT wheat WN9 453.25 4.75 1.1 71691CBOT corn CN9 373.75 5.00 1.4 277149CBOT soybeans SN9 836.50 5.00 0.6 152831CBOT soymeal SMN9 300.30 2.30 0.8 59086CBOT soyoil BON9 27.28 0.28 1.0 51240

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

(Additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; editing by Richard Pullin/Mark Heinrich and Tom Brown)