GRAINS-U.S. soy rallies on signs of strong demand; corn, wheat rise

(Recasts with U.S. trading, updates prices, adds new analyst quote, changes byline/dateline; pvs SINGAPORE/PARIS)

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures rose 1.5% on Thursday, underpinned by the strong demand highlighted in the U.S. Agriculture Department's monthly supply and demand report on Tuesday, traders said.

Corn and wheat futures also were firm, recovering from overnight weakness with the market focused on tight supplies.

Corn received a further boost after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would not rule on the key issue of exempting some oil refineries from biofuel blending laws.

All three commodities remained below the multi-year highs hit earlier this week.

The gains in soybeans were spurred by stronger-than-expected weekly export sales and analysts' expectations that a trade group report on Friday would show a massive pace of crushing in the United States.

"There has been no let-up in crush, no let-up in export demand," said Greg Grow, director of agribusiness at Archer Financial Services in Chicago. "All systems are still go."

At 10:57 a.m. CST (1657 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade March soybean futures were up 21-1/4 cents at $14.27-1/2 a bushel.

USDA said weekly soybean export sales totalled 1.234 million tonnes, topping market forecasts that ranged from 400,000 to 1.2 million tonnes.

The U.S. soybean crush likely rose in December to the second-highest level on record for any month, capping the busiest year of processing ever for the industry, according to analysts polled ahead of a National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) report due on Friday.

China's soybean imports hit a record high in 2020, customs data showed.

CBOT March corn futures gained 8 cents to $5.32-1/2 a bushel.

"The USDA's cut to corn crop yield estimates in Tuesday's report is still ringing in market ears," said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

CBOT March wheat futures were 12-1/4 cents higher at $6.72-3/4 a bushel. (Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral and Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, David Evans and Andrea Ricci)

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