GRAINS-U.S. wheat, soy, corn futures rise on strong export prospects

(Updates with closing prices, adds new analyst quote)

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.S. wheat, soybean and corn futures rose on Friday, with strong export demand continuing to push prices higher, traders said.

Wheat notched the biggest gains, pushing back toward a six-year high on concerns about drought in major production belts, coupled with a flurry of overseas tenders illustrating the robust global demand.

After trading in negative territory for much of the session, soybeans recovered to their highest since July 2016 while corn hit a 14-1/2-month top.

Wheat traders remained focused on weather as recently planted winter crops in the Northern Hemisphere head toward dormancy.

"On the wheat front, there are more dry conditions out there," said Dan Smith, senior risk manager at Top Third Ag Marketing.

Virtually no rain was expected in the week ahead in dry southern belts of top wheat exporter Russia, although some forecasts projected early November showers.

Chicago Board of Trade December soft red winter wheat futures gained 10 cents to $6.32-3/4 a bushel.

CBOT December corn was 3 cents higher at $4.19-1/4 a bushel.

China's government is expected to issue more import quotas and buy millions of tonnes of additional corn in the new crop marketing year, three industry sources said.

Chinese customs data released on Friday showed corn shipments for the first nine months of the year close to its annual low-tariff quota volume for the first time ever.

"Nearby corn contracts remain extremely relentless despite a massive, ongoing U.S. harvest, with the front end of all the grains still leading the way, rightfully popular with speculative traders amid colossal demand," StoneX director of market information Matt Zeller said in a note.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday said that private exporters reported the sale of 100,000 tonnes of corn to unknown destinations.

CBOT November soybeans were 10 cents higher at $10.83-3/4 a bushel. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney; editing by Tomasz Janowski, Richard Chang and Jonathan Oatis)

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