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GRAINS-Corn and soybeans slip after Midwest rains, USDA data awaited

* Rains improve crop prospects in parts of western Midwest

* Ukrainian grain shipments continue, but market cautious

* Traders looking ahead to USDA report on Friday (Rewrites throughout, adds quote, updates prices, changes byline, changes dateline from HAMBURG)

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - U.S. corn and soybean futures eased on Monday as improved weather in parts of the U.S. Midwestern farm belt boosted harvest prospects for crops stressed recently by high temperatures and dryness.

Wheat firmed as the dollar softened, although gains were limited by improving prospects for exports from Ukraine's Black Sea ports and an increased forecast for Russian production.

Grain market moves, however, were tempered by positioning by traders ahead of monthly U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supply-and-demand data due on Friday.

Chicago Board of Trade December corn was down 7 cents to $6.03 a bushel by 11:45 a.m. CDT (1645 GMT) and November soybeans were down 11 cents at $13.97-3/4 a bushel. CBOT September wheat was up 1/2 cent at $7.76-1/4 a bushel.

"The market is handcuffed and we're going into the market report on Friday," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities.

"We're trying to figure out if the good areas in the eastern Corn Belt offset the problems up and down the western Corn Belt ... We had some beneficial rains in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa over the weekend."

Much of the corn crop is in grain filling, while soybeans are in their crucial pod setting and filling stage of development.

Confirmation of export sales on Monday kept a floor under prices as the USDA reported soy purchases by China and corn purchases by Italy and undisclosed buyers.

The market also remains cautious about the restart of grain exports from Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

Two more ships carrying corn and soybeans departed from Ukrainian ports on Monday, taking the total to 10 since the first ship sailed last week under a deal with Russia to unblock Ukrainian seaborne grain exports.

The hopes are that world markets could receive significant new Ukrainian supplies. (Additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Naveen Thukral in Singapore Editing by David Goodman and Paul Simao)

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