Wheat rallies as global demand offsets virus worries



* Wheat importers issue tenders after price slide

* Rains seen keeping quality Australian wheat supplies tight

* USDA confirms China buys U.S. soybeans

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, Dec 2 (Reuters) - U.S. and European wheat futures jumped on Thursday as a series of import tenders and fears of rain damage to Australia's harvest overshadowed concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus variant.

Soybean and corn futures also advanced at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT).

Global demand for wheat put renewed focus on tightening inventories of milling-grade wheat, with top supplier Russia considering further export restrictions and alternative supply from Australia made uncertain by torrential rain.

Saudi Arabia said it is seeking 535,000 tonnes of wheat in a tender, after Egypt on Monday bought 600,000 tonnes in its biggest purchase in years. Tunisia and Jordan also made purchases.

"Wheat, particularly in position with global exporters, is in very short supply," said Jim Gerlach, president of Indiana-based broker AC Trading.

The most-active CBOT wheat contract Wv1 ended up 24-1/2 cents at $8.15 a bushel.

The market extended a rebound from near three-week lows struck on Tuesday, when investor jitters over the impact of the new Omicron coronavirus variant sparked a broad sell-off.

Inflationary pressures helped grain prices recover, Gerlach said.

"Everything is colored right now by this underlying inflationary current," he said.

In Paris, Euronext wheat BL2H2 also climbed.

Supply concerns last month pushed CBOT wheat to a nine-year high and Euronext to an all-time peak.

"The supply shortfall in the northern hemisphere is pushing buyers to go for more Australian wheat," said Ole Houe, director of advisory services at brokerage IKON Commodities in Sydney. "But we have a more lower-quality wheat crop."

In other demand news, Chinese importers bought 130,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans, the USDA said, confirming deals reported by Reuters on Wednesday. Exporters struck deals to sell another 164,100 tonnes of U.S. soy to undisclosed buyers, the agency said.

CBOT soybeans Sv1 ended up 16 cents at $12.44-1/4 a bushel, and corn Cv1 rose 5-1/4 cents at $5.76-3/4 a bushel.
Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago, Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Susan Fenton, Marguerita Choy and Mark Porter

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