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GRAINS-Soy, corn prices ease as pace of US plantings set to rise

* US corn, soybean planting pace has lagged last year

* Lower-than-expected export sales also weigh on prices (Adds quotes, updates prices)

By Nigel Hunt

LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - Chicago soybean and corn futures were slightly lower on Friday, weighed by sluggish exports and an expected pick-up in the pace of plantings in the U.S. Midwest.

Dealers said warmer temperatures and mostly dry weather over the next few days could also accelerate the planting of corn and soybean crops in the U.S. Midwest.

"Temperatures will gradually rise across the core U.S. crop regions through the end of the month under high pressure dominance," Ed Whalen of Thomson Reuters Weather Research said in a report issued on Thursday.

He said rainfall would be "rather limited" in that region.

USDA reported on Monday that U.S. corn was five percent planted, as of Sunday, and soybeans just two percent, both behind last season's pace.

USDA said on Thursday that weekly export sales of soybeans came in at 537,800 tonnes (old-crop and new-crop combined), down from 2.13 million tonnes a week ago.

Analysts had expected soybean export sales in a range from 800,000 tonnes to 1.4 million tonnes.

The most active CBOT soybean contract was down 0.4 percent at $10.35-1/4 a bushel at 1012 GMT, drifting down towards a more than two-week low of $10.27-3/4 set on Tuesday.

"Soybean prices continue to steer clear of modestly lower price levels where a dangerous minefield of momentum triggers await," said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"Investors, heavily long soybean futures, might be prompted into explosions of selling if prices drift down."

The most active CBOT corn contract was down 0.1 percent at $3.95 a bushel.

Corn export sales of 620,500 tonnes, down from 1.20 million tonnes, also were well below trade expectations.

Wheat prices edged higher boosted by crop concerns in both the United States and Europe.

The most active CBOT wheat contract was up 0.1 percent at $4.90 a bushel while milling wheat futures on Euronext rose 0.15 percent to 166.25 euros a tonne.

"Wherever you look in the world, weather seems to be having an impact," said David Sheppard, managing director of UK merchant Gleadell in a market note.

"In the US it has stalled spring sowings, likewise in Western Europe. Cold and wet conditions are seen slowing growth in the Black Sea region, while dry conditions are having a similar affect in the US Plains," he added. (Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Jon Boyle)

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