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GRAINS-U.S. soy, corn edge higher ahead of next week's planting report

Nigel Hunt

* Saudi Arabia eases bug-damage rules on wheat imports

* China July soybean imports hit nearly 1-year high (Adds quotes, updates prices)

LONDON, Aug 8 (Reuters) - U.S. soybean and corn futures edged higher on Thursday as traders squared positions ahead of a U.S. government report next week which should provide some clarity on the planted area of the two crops this season.

Dealers said a rebound in energy prices provided some support although there remained ongoing concerns in the soybean market about the impact of a protracted trade war between Washington and Beijing.

The most active soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade were up 0.6% at $8.72 a bushel at 1115 GMT while corn climbed 0.6% to $4.16-1/2 a bushel.

Dealers said Monday's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) monthly supply and demand report was likely to provide a major short-term focus amid widely differing market assessments of this year's U.S. acreage.

A Reuters survey on soybean planted acres highlighted the contrasting views, with some expecting the USDA to raise its forecast while others anticipated a cut.

There is a clearer consensus on corn where planted acres are expected to be reduced, although analysts differed widely on the extent of the downward revision.

"Grain markets are higher as traders begin to even positions ahead of next Monday's USDA supply and demand report," brokerage Allendale said in a note.

Dealers noted a rise in China's soybean imports in July while adding the increased pace was unlikely to be sustained.

China has halted U.S. agricultural purchases in a deepening trade war with Washington, while overall Chinese demand for soybeans is set to be cut by a swine disease that has decimated the world's biggest pig herd.

"It is a big deal that China has said it will not buy any U.S. agricultural production," said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist, National Australia Bank.

"It is difficult to see upside in this environment."

The most active CBOT wheat futures contract rose 1.1% to $4.93-3/4 a bushel but December wheat on Paris-based Euronext was unchanged at 174.75 euros a tonne.

Dealers said news that Saudi Arabia's state grain buyer is relaxing its bug-damage specifications for wheat imports kept a lid on the Paris market.

The change could open the way for Russia to become a major supplier to Saudi Arabia, partly at the expense of EU exporters such as Germany. (Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Jan Harvey)