Wires

GRAINS-Soybeans set for 5th weekly gain on China demand hopes

Naveen Thukral

* Soybeans up almost 9% in 5 consecutive weeks of gains

* Wheat rises on declining rating of U.S. winter crop

(Adds prices in paragraphs 3-4) SINGAPORE, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Chicago soybean futures ticked lower on Friday although the market was poised for a fifth consecutive weekly gain, underpinned by expectations of higher Chinese demand. Wheat gained more ground, heading for a fourth straight weekly gain as declining conditions of the U.S. winter crop supported the market. The Chicago Board of Trade most-active soybean contract was down 0.2% to $9.54 a bushel by 0312 GMT, but for the week the market was up 1.3%. Wheat added 0.1% to $5.60-3/4 a bushel and corn was unchanged at $3.91-1/2 a bushel. For the week, the wheat market was up 0.8% and corn has gained around 0.5%. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that a Phase 1 trade deal with Beijing would be signed on Jan. 15. U.S. officials expect China to make large purchases of agriculture products, although details have not been announced.

Soybeans posted annual gains of 6.8% in 2019, while wheat rose 11% and corn firmed 3.4% over the year at the CBOT. China has eased customs regulations on imports of soybeans through some northern border checkpoints, the commerce ministry said, a move that could smooth the way for shipments from neighbors such as Kazakhstan, Russia and perhaps Ukraine.

Condition ratings for winter wheat declined from late November to late December in most U.S. Plains states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Thursday, reflecting dry conditions in some areas. The USDA issued its last national winter wheat ratings of the season on Nov. 25, reporting 52% of the U.S. crop in good to excellent condition as of Nov. 24. Over the winter, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service releases monthly reports for select states. Traders are waiting for the agency to issue crop production data on Jan. 10 amid uncertainty about the size of the autumn corn harvest, which was delayed by cold, wet weather.

The USDA said in a separate report that 5.24 million tonnes, or 175 million bushels, of U.S. soybeans were crushed in November. This was below analysts' expectations for 5.277 million short tonnes, or 175.9 million bushels. The agency on Friday is due to report weekly export sales of grains and soybeans, a day later than usual due to the New Year's Day holiday on Wednesday. Commodity funds were net buyers of Chicago Board of Trade corn, wheat, soybean, soymeal and soyoil futures contracts on Thursday, traders said.

Grains prices at 0312 GMT

Currencies

Most active contracts Wheat, corn and soy US cents/bushel. Rice: USD per hundredweight RSI 14, exponential

(Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Subhranshu Sahu)