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GRAINS-Wheat firms as dry weather pushes prices towards near 6-year high

* Expected rains unlikely to ease stress on crops - analysts

* Corn firms, lingers near Aug 2019 high

* Soybeans fall despite strong demand, worries about crops

SYDNEY, Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.S. wheat futures gained on Friday as traders worried expected rains across key producing regions would be insufficient to ease the threat of reduced output.

Corn edged higher as strong demand kept prices near a July 2019 high, while soybeans slipped despite strong demand for U.S. supplies.

The most active wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 0.2% to $6.24 a bushel after closing down 1.1% on Thursday. Prices hit a near six-year high earlier this week at $6.38 a bushel.

“The nascent rainfall on the weather projection horizon yesterday has evolved into something more solid in meteorologists’ forecasts,” said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“Some rain in dry wheat regions around the Black Sea and in the U.S. is helpful but not yet enough to stop worrying about.”

Wheat is set to finish the week flat as traders bank profits after the recent rally.

The most-active soybean futures fell 0.2% to $10.71-1/4 a bushel after closing up 0.2% on Thursday, when prices hit a more than four-year high of $10.85-1/4 a bushel.

Soybeans rose nearly 2.5% for the week after closing down 1.5% last week.

Analysts attributed the weekly gains to concerns about global production at a time of strong demand.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday said weekly soybean export sales totalled 2.226 million tonnes, including 1.222 million tonnes destined for China.

The most active corn futures were up 0.1% at 4.16-3/4 a bushel after closing up 0.6% on Thursday, when prices hit a August 2019 high of $4.19 a bushel.

Corn gained nearly 4% for the week, its fourth straight weekly gain.

Strong demand propelled the gain, analysts said.

Weekly export sales of corn totalled 1.832 million tonnes, up from 655,165 tonnes last week. China accounted for 433,500 tonnes of the total.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel

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