U.S. corn futures are expected to open steady to slightly higher on new export sales reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, although the market's direction could be dictated by how financial markets react to an upcoming speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Chicago Board of Trade futures are expected to open flat to 2 cents higher. In overnight trade, corn for September delivery slipped 1 1/2 cents to $7.30 3/4 per bushel.

The USDA announced export sales of 243,840 metric tons for the 2011-12 marketing year and 121,920 tons for 2012-13. Both sales are to "unknown destinations."

The sales could lessen worries that high corn prices are choking off demand, as export sales generally have been weak recently.

While analysts have speculated any sale to "unknown destinations" recently has been to China, which is expected to be a bigger export buyer this year, a more likely buyer is Japan, said Chad Henderson, analyst with Prime Ag Consultants.

It is widely known that Japan has not yet covered a large portion of their corn needs for the year, Henderson said.

Some analysts also say that it does not make economic sense currently for China to import, as China corn is less than $2 above U.S. corn. That premium typically must be closer to $3 before China looks to buy, a couple of analysts said.

Traders are awaiting a 10 a.m. speech from Fed Chairman Bernanke, and said the market's direction could depend on how financial markets react.

Traders are also looking ahead to a final yield projection from Pro Farmer after its Midwest crop tour concluded Thursday. The tour reported an average yield of 164.6 bushels per acre in Iowa, down from 169.4 in last year's tour, and 175.9 bushels in Minnesota, down from 185.5.

The consistently disappointing results on this year's tour are supportive to the market to an extent, but are also just confirming what traders already suspected about the crop, said Jim Riley, analyst with Linn Group.

Pro Farmer will release a final national yield estimate Friday around 2:30 p.m. EDT, after the market closes.