GRAINS-Soy futures ease on outlook for rain to aid South America crops
* Rain forecast in Brazil, Argentina curbs soy prices
* Corn inches higher after recent setbacks
* Wheat touches one-week low at CBOT (New throughout, updates prices, market activity and comments to close; adds details on China's 2021 soy imports)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures slumped on Friday to their lowest price in more than a week under continued pressure from forecasts for rain in dry South American growing areas, analysts said.
Soybean futures have retreated about 3% since reaching July highs a week ago on concerns about dryness reducing harvests in southern Brazil and Argentina.
The most-active CBOT soybean contract settled down 7-1/2 cents at $13.69-3/4 per bushel and touched its lowest price since Jan. 4.
"We were looking at a bigger drop in South American soybean production but with the recent weather outlook it might not be as bad as expected earlier," said Ole Houe, director of advisory services at agriculture brokerage IKON Commodities in Sydney.
South America's harvests are crucial to global importers like China, the world's biggest soybean buyer.
China's soybean imports in 2021 fell from the previous year, the first annual drop since 2018, customs data showed on Friday, depressed by weakening demand from its massive livestock sector.
In the CBOT corn market, meanwhile, prices rebounded after dropping about 3% from a six-month high reached Dec. 28.
Most-active corn futures ended up 8-3/4 cents at $5.96-1/4 per bushel. The contract earlier matched Thursday's low of $5.85-1/4, the lowest price since Jan. 3.
"Prices have dipped to levels that represent good value especially if the weather in South America returns to hot and dry," said Tomm Pfitzenmaier, analyst for Summit Commodity Brokerage in Iowa.
Weather forecasts show parched areas of Argentina, the world's top exporter of processed soy and No. 2 producer of corn, may receive significant rainfall. Still, some analysts are cautious after a heatwave exacerbated dryness linked to the La Nina climate pattern.
"We would use any sharp setbacks to own soybeans with the potential for La Nina bringing drier conditions once the rainfall passes over the drier areas next week," Pfitzenmaier said.
CBOT wheat touched a one-week low and settled down 5-1/4 cents at $7.41-3/4 per bushel. (Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago, Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Jason Neely and David Gregorio)
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