By Jesse Newman

CHICAGO--Grain and soybean futures rose Wednesday, boosted by optimism over export demand for U.S. crops.

Soybean prices gained to a nearly 3-week high as traders geared up for a key government crop report this week expected to show lower domestic stockpiles of the oilseeds. Analysts expect federal forecasters to trim their view of U.S. soybean supplies thanks to robust export demand, including from China, the world's largest buyer.

Fund buying also gave soybeans a lift, with hedge fund managers and others wagering that prices will improve in the near term thanks to voracious world appetite for the protein, which is used in everything from salad dressing to animal feed.Soybean futures for March delivery climbed 16 cents, or 1.5%, to $10.58 3/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the highest settlement price since Jan. 20.

Corn prices advanced to a more than 7-month high, bolstered by fund buying as well as optimism over demand for the grain. Analysts expect the USDA on Thursday to forecast corn stockpiles at the end of the 2016-17 season next August at 2.34 billion bushels, down from its January estimate of 2.36 billion, according to analysts polled by The Wall Street Journal.

CBOT March corn gained 2 1/4 cents, or 0.6%, to $3.70 3/4 a bushel, the highest closing price since Jun. 29.

CBOT March wheat advanced 1 3/4 cents, or 0.4%, to $4.32 1/2 a bushel.

Write to Jesse Newman at jesse.newman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 08, 2017 15:58 ET (20:58 GMT)

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