Adds analyst comment, French crop progress, updates prices
CANBERRA/PARIS, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Chicago wheat futures edged lower on Friday and headed for their biggest weekly fall since September after lower-than-expected U.S. export sales underlined weak demand and competition from cheap Russian grain.
Soybeans and corn also dipped, but both were set for weekly gains despite a sharp decline for soybeans on Thursday after forecasts for rain in top exporter Brazil eased supply concerns.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported export sales of U.S. 2023/24 wheat in the week to Nov. 9 at 176,300 metric tons, below trade expectations for 250,000-500,000 tons.
Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) front-month December wheat futures Wc1 were down 0.4% at $5.51-1/2 a bushel by 1130 GMT and down 4.1% for the week.
Prices were near September's three-year low of $5.40 as Russia, wrapping up a second consecutive huge harvest, continues to export huge amounts of cheap grain.
"The supply prospects on the wheat markets have further improved in the short term. For one thing, the Australian wheat crop looks set to produce better yields ... For another thing, the EU soft wheat supply has improved slightly, according to the analyst firm Strategie Grains," Commerzbank said in a note.
The bank's analysts stressed however that Australian supply would still be down significantly.
The International Grains Council raised its forecast for 2023/24 global wheat production by 2 million metric tons to 787 million tons.
Meanwhile there was still plenty of cheap Black Sea grain hitting markets and keeping a lid on prices, noted Rod Baker at Australian Crop Forecasters.
In France, the European Union's biggest grain grower, winter grain sowings for the 2024 harvest had made little progress and crop ratings fell last week, farm office FranceAgrimer said in a sign that heavy rainfall took a toll on crops.
CBOT soybeans Sv1 fell 0.4% to $13.55-1/2 a bushel but were still around 0.6% higher this week. Corn Cv1 slipped 0.5% to $4.72-1/4 a bushel but were 1.8% up from last Friday's close.
The USDA reported weekly U.S. export sales last week of more than 3.9 million metric tons, the highest combined crop year sales since 2012, after a surge in Chinese buying.
Given poor figures earlier in the year, the high figure only lifted the sales pace closer to the normal range.
A recent rise in domestic and foreign demand for U.S. beans helped lift CBOT futures to $13.99 a bushel on Wednesday, the highest since Aug. 30.
But soybean prices plunged on Thursday on expectations of crop-boosting rain in major producers Brazil and Argentina.
Prices at 1145 GMT
CBOT wheat Wc1
CBOT corn Cv1
CBOT soy Sv1
Paris wheat BL2c1
Paris maize EMAc1
Paris rapeseed COMc1
WTI crude oil CLc1
Most active contracts - Wheat, corn and soy US cents/bushel, Paris futures in euros per tonne
(Reporting by Peter Hobson in Canberra and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Rashmi Aich and David Evans)