Chicago grains extended losses Thursday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released lower export sales data for soybeans and corn, and wheat was pressured by the resumption of Ukrainian grain flows.

* Grain prices were also affected by the drop in crude oil, as investors monitored weather conditions for U.S. spring planting.

* Weekly U.S. soybean export sales in the current marketing year fell 73% from the previous week, while corn sales were down 41% from the previous week, USDA said.

* “Export sales were almost nonexistent,” said Tom Fritz, a partner at EFG Group in Chicago. “Brazil is dominating the world export scene and has enough beans to handle Argentina’s deficit, so we’re facing a lack of demand here (in the U.S.).”

* The most active soybean contract on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) was losing 0.83% to $14.94 a bushel at 1511 GMT.

* Corn was down 1.14% at $6.2925 a bushel and wheat was down 0.83% at $6.87 a bushel.

* Inspections of ships carrying Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports resumed Wednesday under a U.N.-mediated agreement, although Kiev faces difficulties in securing an extension of the deal with Moscow.

* A European Union plan to allow Ukrainian grain to continue to be transported through five eastern bloc countries for further export reduced the risk of a disruption of Ukrainian shipments through the EU on Wednesday.

* Hungary, for its part, called for “progressive” EU aid to help transport Ukrainian grain through central European countries, whose farmers have to compete with its cheaper imports.

* Large Russian exports and favorable prospects for this year’s Russian crop also eased supply concerns.

* Weather forecasts predicting showers over the next week in some drought-stricken U.S. winter wheat belts further dampened prices.

* Rain could hamper early planting of U.S. corn and soybeans, but would increase soil moisture for later growth.

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