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GRAINS-Wheat climbs to one-week high on U.S. weather concerns

SINGAPORE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Chicago wheat futures rose to a one-week high on Monday, heading for a third session of gain in four, with prices underpinned by concerns over dry weather hurting the U.S. winter crop. Corn slid for a third consecutive session, while soybeans were largely unchanged after closing marginally lower on Friday as improved South American weather weighed on prices.

FUNDAMENTALS

* A combination of delays to autumn planting and dry conditions in the southern U.S. Plains have left the hard red winter crop vulnerable to freeze damage, crop experts said, which could further tighten supplies of high-protein wheat.

* A cold spell is forecast for later in December. Any freeze in the coming months could pose an outsize threat to supply, given there is already a shortage of high-protein wheat.

* There was additional support for the wheat market from improved demand.

* The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday morning that private exporters reported the sale of 130,000 tonnes of soft red winter wheat to unknown destinations for delivery during the 2017/18 marketing year.

* That followed news earlier last week that U.S. exporters booked a deal to sell 120,000 tonnes of hard red winter wheat to Algeria.

* Forecasts of rains in parched areas of South America's crop-belt added pressure on corn and soybeans.

* Above-normal rainfall is expected across eastern Argentina and southern Brazil ... which should lead to notable improvements in soil moisture, MDA Weather Services said in a note to clients.

* Private analytics firm Informa Economics raised its forecast of U.S. 2018 soybean plantings to 91.387 million acres, a potential record high, and trimmed its 2018 corn plantings projection to 89.675 million acres, according to an Informa client note obtained by Reuters on Friday.

* Informa also lowered its estimate of U.S. winter wheat plantings for harvest in 2018 to 31.093 million acres, from its month-ago figure of 31.923 million.

* Large speculators increased their net short position in Chicago Board of Trade corn futures in the week to Dec. 12, regulatory data released on Friday showed.

* The Commodity Futures Trading Commission's weekly commitments of traders report also showed that non-commercial traders, a category that includes hedge funds, increased their net short position in CBOT wheat and switched to a net short position in soybeans.

MARKET NEWS

* Asian shares inched up on Monday, tracking Wall Street, which hit record highs on expectations U.S. lawmakers will pass a long-awaited tax bill, while the British pound hovered near 3-week lows amid Brexit talks.

DATA AHEAD (GMT)

0130 China House prices Nov 1500 U.S. NAHB housing market index Dec

Grains prices at 0141 GMT

Contract Last Change Pct chg Two-day chg MA 30 RSI CBOT wheat 421.75 3.50 +0.84% +1.20% 434.69 70 CBOT corn 346.75 -0.75 -0.22% -0.64% 354.60 65 CBOT soy 968.25 1.00 +0.10% -1.12% 987.47 31 CBOT rice 11.72 $0.01 +0.09% -0.47% $12.01 34 WTI crude 57.34 $0.04 +0.07% +0.53% $57.08 51

Currencies

Euro/dlr $1.175 $0.000 -0.01% -0.22% USD/AUD 0.7646 0.000 +0.03% -0.25%

Most active contracts Wheat, corn and soy US cents/bushel. Rice: USD per hundredweight RSI 14, exponential

(Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)