GRAINS-U.S. soy rallies to highest since mid-January; corn firm; wheat weak

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

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, Feb 23 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures surged 2.5% on Tuesday to their highest in more than five weeks on expectations that a slow harvest in Brazil will add further stress to the already tight supply situation in the United States, traders said.

Corn futures also were strong, hitting a two-week high as Brazil's soybean harvest delays risked holding up planting of the country's main corn crop. Wheat futures eased on profit-taking and technical selling.

The most-active Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures contract jumped past the $14 a bushel mark and was on track for its biggest daily rally since Jan. 12.

"Supplies remain delayed from South America, and the U.S. (is) basically running out of stocks heading into the summer months," Matt Zeller, director of market information at StoneX, said in a note to clients.

At 9:53 a.m. CST (1553 GMT), CBOT May soybean futures were up 35-1/2 cents at $14.23 a bushel. Prices peaked at $14.24 a bushel, the highest since Jan. 15.

CBOT May corn futures were up 6-1/2 cents at $5.57 a bushel.

Consultancy AgRural said on Monday that the harvest pace in Brazil was the slowest in a decade.

Traders shrugged off a forecast by Agroconsult that raised its outlook for Brazil's soybean crop by 1.6 million tonnes to 134 million.

CBOT May soft red winter wheat was down 3-3/4 cents at $6.66 a bushel.

Traders were assessing mixed crop ratings for U.S. winter wheat as reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Monday afternoon.

"There wasn't a huge drop in the crop ratings and Kansas was pretty stable," Agritel's Nathan Cordier said.

However, the market was monitoring potential damage in Texas, where wheat development is faster than elsewhere and crops faced severe winter weather last week, as well as a Russian cold spell, he added. (Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Andrea Ricci)

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