Wires

GRAINS-Soybeans firm on China demand hopes as U.S. harvest accelerates

Karl Plume

* Soybean futures rise as Chinese buying expected

* Rising U.S. harvest pace limits gains in corn, soy (Rewrites throughout with U.S. market open, adds quote, updates prices, changes byline, changes dateline from SINGAPORE/PARIS)

CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures edged higher on Wednesday after China offered to exempt some U.S. shipments from import tariffs, although a lack of confirmed buying and an accelerating U.S. harvest kept gains in check.

Corn eased on harvest pressure and limited demand, while wheat firmed in a modest rebound from two days of declines.

Grain markets have been focused on U.S.-China trade developments as the two countries work to end their bruising trade war that has clipped exports of U.S. crops.

Beijing on Tuesday offered major Chinese and international soybean processors waivers that would exempt the companies from steep tariffs on imports of up to 10 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The news, however, failed to unleash a torrent of soybean buying by the world's top soy importer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Wednesday confirmed 128,000 tonnes in soybean sales, valued at around $49 million at current U.S. export prices, to an undisclosed buyer that was widely believed to be China.

The small volume would be a fraction of China's pre-trade-war U.S. soy purchases of more than $12 billion a year.

"The lack of confirmation of bigger purchases is a little negative to the market," said Terry Reilly, senior commodities analyst with Futures International.

Improving harvest weather in the United States also weighed on corn and soybean futures after late planting and delayed development of both crops have underpinned prices this season.

"The slow harvest progress is a little bit supportive, but the weather has improved and we expect it will continue to improve over the next week," Reilly said.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) November soybeans rose 3 cents to $9.37 a bushel by 12:27 p.m. CDT (1727 GMT) while December corn was down 1/4 cent at $3.87-3/4 a bushel. CBOT December wheat gained 2-1/4 cents to $5.20-1/4 a bushel.

Wheat was underpinned by crop concerns in some key exporting nations and strong global demand for the grain. Futures gains, however, were tempered stiff competition in export markets that has limited sales of U.S. supplies.

Algeria bought about 600,000 tonnes of milling wheat, likely to be sourced from France, in a tender on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Shounak Dasgupta and Cynthia Osterman)