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GRAINS-U.S. wheat futures drop as weather improves; corn, soy weak too

(Updates with closing prices, adds details throughout)

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, April 16 (Reuters) - U.S. wheat futures fell to their lowest in 10 days on Monday, led by a 3.4 percent drop in K.C. hard red winter wheat prices, on forecasts for rain in key growing areas that will provide relief to a drought-stressed crop, traders said.

"Wheat prices are lower, with longs running for cover as the weather market rally threatens a swift collapse," Farm Futures analyst Bryce Knorr said in a note to clients. "Forecasts show another big storm this week that could bring much-needed rainfall to the southwest Plains."

The drop in wheat also pulled corn futures lower, while soybeans fell on a wave of profit-taking and technical selling after hitting their highest in more than a month on Friday.

Concerns about cold weather delaying planting in the United States kept the weakness in corn in check.

K.C. hard red winter wheat futures for May delivery dropped 17-3/4 cents to settle at $4.78 a bushel, just above its session low. Chicago Board of Trade May soft red winter wheat futures were down 10-1/4 cents at $4.62-1/4 a bushel.

"Better weather on the way for a heavily damaged U.S. winter wheat crop now transitioning from boot to heading stage," Thomson Reuters Agriculture Research analysts said.

Winter wheat has endured drought followed by late frost, and the cold start to spring has also raised question marks about whether farmers will plant extra spring wheat as projected by the U.S. government.

MGEX spring wheat for May delivery was down 10-1/4 cents at $6.06-3/4 a bushel, notching its for its biggest daily percentage loss since March 29.

Investors will get a further indication of crop conditions and planting progress in weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) crop progress data at 3 p.m. CDT (2000 GMT) on Monday.

Analysts were expecting the report to show good-to-excellent ratings for wheat holding steady at 30 percent. Corn seeding was expected to be 5 percent complete.

CBOT May corn futures ended down 3-3/4 cents at $3.82-1/2 a bushel. CBOT May soybeans were 12-1/4 cents lower at $10.42 a bushel.

Drought-hit soybean production in Argentina is expected to keep a floor under the oilseed market, but strong yield prospects in Paraguay and Brazil were limiting price support.

Traders shrugged off sings of strong domestic demand for soybeans. U.S. processors crushed 171.858 million bushels of soybeans in March, the highest monthly total on record, according to a National Oilseed Processors Association report. (Additional Reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)

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