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GRAINS-Soy, corn sag on worries about demand from China; USDA data ahead

(Recasts, updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline, changes dateline from previous SINGAPORE/PARIS)

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO, Nov 7 (Reuters) -

U.S. soybean futures declined on Monday, retreating after rising to a six-week high, on fears about export demand after top buyer China denied it was considering easing its zero-COVID policy.

Traders were also adjusting positions ahead of monthly supply/demand reports due at mid-week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Wheat turned lower after trading higher at midsession.

As of 1:04 p.m. CST (1904 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade January soybeans were down 13 cents at $14.49-1/4 per bushel, turning lower after a climb to $14.69, the contract's highest since Sept. 22.

CBOT December corn was down 5 cents at $6.76 a bushel and December wheat was down 3-1/2 cents at $8.44-1/4 a bushel.

Soybeans fell on concerns about slowing demand from China, the world's top soy importer, where exports and imports unexpectedly contracted in October as the country struggles with COVID curbs. China's soy imports fell 19% in October from a year earlier to 4.14 million tonnes, customs data showed, hitting their lowest for any month since 2014.

"There are big questions about the end of COVID-zero policy in China and seemingly few answers," said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank. "Markets keep speculating it will end and then it doesn't end."

Corn dipped in sympathy with soybeans and as traders adjusted positions ahead of the USDA's Nov. 9 supply/demand reports. The average of estimates for the U.S. corn and soybean yield among analysts surveyed by Reuters were unchanged from the USDA's October figures.

But some private estimates, including those from StoneX and IHS Markit, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, projected higher corn and soybean yields than the USDA's October estimates.

"Small crops (tend to) get smaller, but could this be the year where the crops get bigger?," said Don Roose, president of Iowa-based U.S. Commodities.

The U.S. harvest is winding down. Ahead of the USDA's weekly crop progress report due later on Monday, analysts on average projected that the U.S. corn harvest was 86% complete and the soybean harvest at 94%.

For the U.S. winter wheat crop that will be harvested in 2023, analysts on average expected the USDA to rate 31% in good to excellent condition, an improvement from 28% as of Oct. 30, the lowest for that time of year in records dating to 1987. (Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; editing by Rashmi Aich, Sherry Jacob-Phillips, David Evans and Aurora Ellis)

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