(Recasts, updates with closing prices)
By Mark Weinraub
CHICAGO, Aug 18 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean futures eased on Thursday, closing well above session lows as technical buyers stepped into the market after profit-taking sparked an early sell-off, traders said.
Wheat and corn futures firmed on short-covering, recovering from early dips into negative territories.
Rain in key U.S. growing areas that removed some lingering doubts about crop development weighed on soybeans throughout the day.
“We have got some weather moving through the Midwest that is finishing up the bean crop,” said Dan O’Bryan, a risk management specialist and broker at Top Third Ag Marketing.
Chicago Board of Trade November soybean futures settled down 1-1/2 cents at $10.14-1/2 a bushel.
The contract found technical support from early weakness at its 10-day moving average, pushing prices back toward Wednesday’s close.
Even with Thursday’s decline, soybean futures have risen 5.4 percent since last Friday, when the U.S. Agriculture Department issued a forecast for a record U.S. harvest. A slew of fresh export deals muted the impact of the production outlook during the rally.
But USDA’s weekly export report on Thursday morning came in as expected and did not provide the fresh fuel that traders said the soy market needed to spur more gains, traders said. The report showed old-crop export sales in the latest week totaled 177,900 tonnes and new-crop export sales 1.598 million tonnes.
Corn, which notched its fifth straight higher close, was consolidating after recovering from seven-year lows hit on Friday. USDA also issued a forecast for record corn production last week.
Wheat also ticked higher but market strength remained capped by big harvests in exporting countries in North America and the Black Sea region.
CBOT December corn futures settled 2-1/4 cents higher at $3.42 a bushel and CBOT September wheat ended up 1 cent at $4.27 a bushel.
USDA’s export sales report showed that old-crop corn sales in the latest week were 167,400 tonnes, below market forecasts. New-crop corn export sales of 1.043 million tonnes were in line with expectations.
For wheat, USDA said export sales totaled 489,500 tonnes, matching trade forecasts. (Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Gus Trompiz in Paris; Editing by W Simon and Peter Cooney)