GRAINS-Corn, soybeans hit multi-month highs on U.S. stocks data

* US corn stocks lower than expected, plantings to fall

* US soybean stocks hit 10-year low for time of year

(Adds quotes, updates prices)

April 1 (Reuters) - U.S. corn futures rose to a 7-month high on Tuesday after a government report showed stockpiles in the world's top exporter were below market estimates and forecast a significant shift in planted area away from the crop and towards soybeans.

Soybeans on the Chicago Board of Trade climbed to a 6-1/2 month high as the government data heightened concern about tight old crop supplies while U.S. wheat prices were slightly lower.

U.S. corn stockpiles were 7.006 billion bushels as of March 1, below analysts' expectations for 7.099 billion bushels, according to quarterly estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released on Monday.

In a separate report, the USDA said corn plantings were forecast to fall 4 percent to 91.7 million acres, 1 million below the average trade forecast as farmers switch to soybeans and other oilseeds this spring.

"Based on the survey findings, the shift from corn to soybeans has turned out to be more pronounced than had previously been expected," Commerzbank said in a market note, adding the stocks data was also supportive for prices.

CBOT corn futures for May delivery climbed 3-1/2 cents or 0.7 percent to $5.05-1/2 a bushel by 1050 GMT after earlier peaking at $5.06, the highest level for the front month since late August 2013.

"I think there's more bullishness for corn going forward on the back of both the stocks and plantings reports. I expect it to test the resistance level of $5.20," said Vanessa Tan, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures.

Soybeans also extended gains from the prior session, with the May CBOT contract up 0.9 percent at $14.77-3/4 a bushel after peaking at $14.81-3/4, the highest level for the front month since mid-September 2013.


U.S. soy supplies remained tight as of March 1 when stockpiles stood at 992 million bushels, according to the U.S. government data.

"U.S. soybean stocks as per 1 March had fallen to a ten-year low for the time of year. The shortage of soybeans from the most recent crop had driven prices up significantly in recent weeks, though next season looks like bringing some relief," Commerzbank said, noting the forecast rise in U.S. soybean plantings.

USDA predicted U.S. soybean plantings to hit a record 81.5 million acres, up 6 percent from last year and suggesting a harvest above 3.6 billion bushels.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley said despite the market's initial bullish reaction, it does not expect the stocks estimate for soybeans to be able to sustain a rally in prices.

"With sales coverage in the South American crop far behind last year's levels and Chinese demand waning, we see the setup into the second half of 2013/14 as quite different from the same time a year ago.

"Moreover, above-expected soybean area of 81.5 million acres can only be interpreted as bearish for new-crop prices, particularly when weather-related planting delays could still swell that number further," Morgan Stanley said in a note.

CBOT May wheat fell 7-1/2 cents or 1.1 percent to $6.89-3/4 a bushel while May milling wheat in Paris rose a marginal 0.1 percent to 208.00 euros a tonne.

Dealers said U.S. prices were weighed by higher than expected quarterly stocks of 1.056 billion bushels, above analysts' estimates of 1.042 billion bushels.

They noted, however, the declining condition of the crop in the top producing state, Kansas, remained a concern.

Wheat conditions stabilized in the western reaches of the U.S. Plains during the past week but fell in Kansas, the largest production state for the grain, as dry soils took their toll on crop health.

"I think attention will now turn to the U.S. weather in April and what the impact will be on U.S. sowings," one European trader said.

(Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. in Singapore and Michael Hogan in Hamburg; editing by Keiron Henderson)