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GRAINS-Corn hits contract lows, soy sags, wheat firm after USDA data

Julie Ingwersen

* Corn lower after USDA raises U.S. stockpiles forecast

* Soybeans decline on plentiful U.S., world supplies

* Wheat posts fifth weekly drop

(Updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline, changes dateline from previous PARIS/SYDNEY) CHICAGO, March 8 (Reuters) - U.S. corn futures fell to contract lows on Friday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) raised its forecast of U.S. corn ending stocks above a range of trade expectations, reflecting a drop in the government's corn export forecast. U.S. soybean futures also declined and wheat recorded a fifth straight weekly decline, despite ending higher on the day. Chicago Board of Trade May corn futures settled down 1 cent at $3.64-1/4 per bushel after dipping to a contract low of $3.62-1/4, the lowest price for a most-active contract since Nov. 21. CBOT May soybeans ended down 6-3/4 cents at $8.95-3/4 a bushel while May wheat finished up 1-1/4 cents at $4.39-1/2 a bushel. Corn futures fell after the USDA in a monthly report raised its forecast of U.S. corn stocks remaining at the end of the 2018/19 marketing year to 1.835 billion bushels, topping the highest in a range of trade expectations. The projected increase reflected a drop in the government's estimate of U.S. corn exports to 2.375 billion bushels, down 75 million from the USDA's previous monthly report. However, the market was underpinned by the fact that corn futures have already fallen sharply in the last two weeks. "The big change in the exports is really disappointing for the corn. But here we are, barely lower, when it could be a dime lower," said Jack Scoville, analyst with the Price Group. Soybean futures sagged although the USDA's changes to its U.S. and global ending stocks forecasts were roughly in line with analyst expectations. The USDA pegged Brazil's soybean crop at 116.5 million tonnes, down from its February estimate of 117 million but above an average of analyst estimates for 115.7 million. "There were some people thinking they would slash Brazil's bean production a little more than they did," said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Marketing Solutions. The USDA confirmed that China bought 664,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans, China's first purchase of U.S. supplies since promising last month to buy 10 million tonnes as part of trade talks. News of the sale had lifted futures on Thursday.

CBOT wheat closed higher in a light bounce after most months hit contract lows. As with corn, the USDA cut its forecast of U.S. 2018/19 wheat exports and raised its forecast of wheat ending stocks to 1.055 billion bushels, from 1.010 billion last month.

"Bigger wheat crops out of Australia and Russia are going to cut into our exports, so USDA was certainly justified," Hoops said. For the week, CBOT May wheat fell 17-3/4 cents a bushel or nearly 4 percent, its fifth straight drop. May corn fell about 2 percent for the week and May soy fell 1.7 percent, its biggest weekly drop since December.

CBOT settlement prices:

Net Pct Volume

Last change change

CBOT wheat WK9 439.50 1.25 0.1 76853CBOT corn CK9 364.25 -1.00 -0.3 184508CBOT soybeans SK9 895.75 -6.75 -0.8 101304CBOT soymeal SMK9 303.70 -2.60 -1.0 50442CBOT soyoil BOK9 29.65 -0.02 0.0 52605

NOTE: CBOT May wheat, corn and soybeans shown in cents per bushel, May soymeal in dollars per short ton and May soyoil in cents per lb.

(Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Colin Packham in Sydney Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, David Goodman and Sonya Hepinstall)