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GRAINS-Soybean futures slip on technical sales, corn firm, wheat flat

Mark Weinraub

(Adds details, closing prices)

CHICAGO, Oct 3 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures weakened on Thursday, retreating from early gains on technical selling after failing to take out the 10-week high hit on Tuesday, traders said.

Wheat futures ended little changed, supported by a surprise export deal with China. But traders said more bullish inputs were needed to push prices back to Monday's 1-1/2 month peak.

Corn futures ended slightly higher, with the market recovering from early weakness after finding technical support at Tuesday's low.

Moves in all three commodities were muted as investors waited for the U.S. government's corn and soybean harvest forecasts, due on Oct. 10.

"You are marking time now until next week," said Jim Gerlach, president of broker A/C Trading in Indiana. "I do not think there is any fresh news."

Traders shrugged off signs of strong export demand for U.S. soybeans.

Chicago Board of Trade November soybean futures settled 2 cents lower at $9.11-3/4 a bushel. Prices had peaked at $9.18-1/2 a bushel, just 1-1/2 cents lower than Tuesday's high, before turning into negative territory.

CBOT December soft red winter wheat was down 1/4 cent at $4.88-3/4 a bushel. Deferred wheat contracts ended unchanged to up 1/4 cent. CBOT December corn was 1 cent higher at $3.88-3/4 a bushel.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Thursday morning said that private exporters reported the sale of 130,000 tonnes of U.S. white wheat to China for shipment in the 2019/20 season. It was China's first purchase of the variety, used to make breads and noodles, since March and its largest one-time purchase of U.S. wheat since December 2016, USDA data showed.

USDA also reported a sale of 252,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans to China, the second consecutive daily confirmation of sales to the world's top soy importer. It follows a flurry of buying earlier this week by importers that sources said were granted up to 2 million tonnes in exemptions from steep tariffs on U.S. shipments.

A weekly USDA report released on Thursday showed soybean export sales totaled 2.08 million tonnes in the week ended Sept. 26. Analysts' forecasts for soybean export sales had ranged from 900,000 tonnes to 1.4 million tonnes.

Weekly corn export sales were 565,100 tonnes, in line with forecasts for 400,000 tonnes to 800,000 tonnes, and wheat export sales were 328,500 tonnes, in line with forecasts for 200,000 tonnes to 600,000 tonnes. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Jan Harvey, Lisa Shumaker and Dan Grebler)

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