March 7, 2014 / 4:13 AM / 3 years ago

GRAINS-U.S. corn climbs to 6-month top, soy rises for 2nd day

* Corn up for 5 out of 6 sessions on strong exports

* Benchmark May soybeans hit contract high

* Corn, wheat supported by Ukraine violence (Adds details, quotes)

By Naveen Thukral

SINGAPORE, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. corn climbed to a six-month top on Friday, rising for five out of six sessions, while soybeans hit a contract high as strong demand for U.S. supplies continued to underpin the agricultural markets.

Wheat gained more ground, taking the weekly gains to nearly 8 percent, the biggest rise since late June, on the back of the rally in corn and soybean prices.

"U.S. corn export sales in the last week of February were very strong, well ahead of pre-report expectations," said Luke Mathews, a commodities strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"The latest data shows U.S. soybean exports remain very strong and that there is a lack of significant cancellation by Chinese importers, something that is often observed as the South American crop comes online."

For the week, Chicago Board Of Trade spot-month corn has gained 6.3 percent, the biggest rally since May, while front-month wheat is up 7.6 percent, the most since July, 2012.

Soybeans are up 2.3 this week, for a fifth consecutive week of gains.

On the day, corn rose 0.9 percent to $4.95-1/4 a bushel by 0331 GMT, its highest since early September, May soybeans hit a contract high of $14.49 a bushel and wheat rose as much as 0.4 percent to $6.49 a bushel, matching Thursday's highest since early December.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported U.S. old-crop corn export sales of more than 1.5 million tonnes in the latest week, well above a range of trade estimates.

Soybeans rose on worries that continued export sales of the oilseed could deplete U.S. stockpiles. The USDA on Thursday pegged export sales of old-crop soybeans in the latest week at 772,700 tonnes.

Corn and wheat drew additional support from concern about political instability and violence in Ukraine, a major exporter of both crops.

The unrest has caused some traders in that country to hold back from agreeing to new contracts, while Russian corn export prices have been rising for two weeks.

Sales of U.S. soybeans are expected to grind to a virtual halt in the next few weeks as freshly harvested soy from South America hits the export pipeline.

Brazil exported 2.79 million tonnes of soybeans in February, up sharply from 30,600 tonnes in January, Trade Ministry data released on Thursday showed.

Still, traders expect the USDA on Monday to trim its forecasts of soy and corn production in South America due to poor crop weather.

Grains prices at 0331 GMT Contract Last Change Pct chg Two-day chg MA 30 RSI CBOT wheat 648.50 2.50 +0.39% +0.93% 596.43 70 CBOT corn 495.25 4.25 +0.87% +2.75% 455.74 85 CBOT soy 1447.50 9.50 +0.66% +1.90% 1341.51 83 CBOT rice $15.34 $0.05 +0.33% +0.62% $15.74 39 WTI crude $101.82 $0.26 +0.26% +0.36% $100.29 50 Currencies Euro/dlr $1.386 $0.000 +0.00% +0.92% USD/AUD 0.909 0.000 +0.02% +1.14% Most active contracts Wheat, corn and soy US cents/bushel. Rice: USD per hundredweight RSI 14, exponential (Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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