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Cotton prices inch up on short-covering ahead of export data

May 30 (Reuters) - Cotton prices settled higher on Thursday, as investors covered their short positions in anticipation of the U.S. weekly export sales data expected to release on May 31.

* The most active cotton contract on ICE Futures U.S., the July

contract , settled up 0.29 cent, or 0.42%, at 69.35 cents

per lb. It traded within a range of 68.18 and 69.5 cents a lb.

* "Cotton is a little higher today as we await (Friday's) delayed sales and export numbers," said Keith Brown, principal at cotton brokers Keith Brown and Co in Moultrie, Georgia, adding that a comeback in corn and wheat have also helped support prices.

* "We may see additional short-covering buying by speculators, and if sales and export numbers are friendly, that will also be supportive."

* Corn futures were higher on Thursday following some weakness on Wednesday as planting stood at a historic slow pace in the Midwest.

* However, analysts are wary about the outlook for cotton amidst a long-standing trade dispute between China and the United States, and delayed planting.

* "Most fundamentals for cotton are bearish - the dollar is strong and we do not have a trade deal with China," Brown said.

* The dollar gained on Thursday as the trade stand-off between China and the United States prompted traders to put money into perceived safe currencies including the greenback.

* Signs that the trade dispute will not be resolved quickly and concerns over its impact on global growth have roiled markets since its conception.

* Total futures market volume fell by 2,897 to 21,225 lots. Data showed total open interest gained 1,118 to 216,933 contracts in the previous session.

* Certificated cotton stocks <CERT-COT-STX> deliverable as of May 29 totaled 82,882 480-lb bales, up from 82,163 in the previous session.

(Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)