CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Chicago Board of Trade corn futures surged Wednesday, as the slumbering market awakened on rumors of possible Chinese corn imports and technical buying, traders said.

May corn ended up 10 cents to $3.56 1/2 a bushel and July corn ended up 9 3/4 cents to $3.67 3/4.

The market had been just slightly higher at midday when prices suddenly surged, ultimately climbing more than a dime. Traders said there was widespread talk of firms in China seeking import licenses for corn, a prospect that analysts said would be strongly supportive.

"Any time you're going to affiliate the name 'China' looking to import corn from the U.S., that's a big deal," said Mark Schultz, vice president for Northstar Commodity.

Traders said the specific speculation Wednesday afternoon was that one firm in China was seeking licenses to import 2 million metric tons of corn. The bullish potential, Schultz and others said, is that the number will increase. One 2-million-ton purchase is not that big of a deal, Schultz said.

Analysts said the talk of increased China imports comes as demand for distillers dried grain, an ethanol byproduct used as feed, is already on the rise.

Joe Victor, vice president/marketing for Allendale, said that technical buying was a big factor in the market's climb Wednesday. Analysts noted that many traders are short in the market, and the prospect of China imports prompted them to cover those positions. That improved the technical outlook, sparking more buying interest, they said.

Victor said two consecutive closes above $3.60 in the May contract would be bullish technically.

Although the perception is the market has been strongly negative coming into Wednesday, prices had only fallen slightly since Thursday's bearish quarterly stocks report, said Chad Henderson, analyst with Prime Ag Consultants.

"It just seems like the bearish news has already been priced in the market," he said.

CBOT oats futures ended higher Wednesday. May oats ended up 7 1/4 cents to $2.17 1/2 a bushel and July oats climbed 7 cents to $2.26.

Ethanol futures were slightly higher. May ethanol was up $0.004 to $1.556 a gallon and July ethanol climbed $0.004 to $1.584.


-By Ian Berry, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-341-5778; ian.berry@dowjones.com