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308317

GRAINS-Soybeans firm on strong exports, corn and wheat also rise

* U.S. soybean export inspections above expectations

* South American rains help crops, but dryness concerns remain

* Traders positioning ahead of USDA monthly report on Thursday (Rewrites with U.S. market open, adds quote, updates prices, changes byline, changes dateline from HAMBURG)

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures firmed on Monday in a rebound from sharp declines last week as continued strong U.S. exports and pockets of dryness in South American production areas stoked concerns about tightening supplies of the oilseed.

Corn and wheat rose in tandem with rising soybeans, supported by solid global demand for grain.

Investors also took positions ahead of a monthly U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supply-and-demand report due on Thursday which will offer the agency's latest view on South American crops.

"The trade is going to keep a weather premium built into this market until it sees Thursday's report," said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Solutions.

"A strong export market always draws attention back to the weather. With Argentina and some key areas of Brazil still missing a lot of precipitation, you've got to wonder if supplies are falling faster than demand."

Chicago Board of Trade January soybeans were up 1-1/2 cents at $11.64-1/2 a bushel by 12:05 p.m. CST (1805 GMT). March corn was up 3-1/2 cents at $4.24 a bushel, while CBOT March wheat climbed 3-1/2 cents to $5.79 a bushel after touching a two-month low in overnight trading.

Weekend rains in northern and central Brazil brought relief to parched crops, but a sizable portion of the country's farm belt remains in a moisture deficit, meteorologists said. Argentina is also dry in key production areas.

Tightening soybean stocks and robust demand from top importer China supported soybean prices. Customs data showed China imported 9.59 million tonnes of mostly U.S. soybeans in November, up from 8.7 million the prior month.

The USDA on Monday said 2.297 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans were inspected for export last week, above trade expectations for 1.5 to 2.2 million. (Additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Pravin Char and Mark Potter)

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