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GRAINS-Wheat drops most since August after USDA acreage surprise

(Updates U.S. market activity to close)

By Michael Hirtzer

CHICAGO, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Chicago wheat futures tumbled nearly 3 percent on Friday, notching their biggest daily decline since August, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed larger-than-expected U.S. winter wheat plantings.

Corn futures fell to life-of-contract lows, while soybeans turned higher in a recovery from four-month lows in the wake of the midday USDA supply and demand data.

The government raised its estimate for U.S. corn production due to record-large yields and trimmed its estimate for the U.S. soybean harvest, even as that crop remained the biggest ever.

The USDA estimated 2018 winter wheat plantings at 32.608 million acres, the smallest since 1909 but above analysts' expectations for 30.100 million to 32.000 million.

"The biggest thing was the wheat acres being up instead of down," said Linn & Associates analyst Roy Huckabay. "I've got 1.5 million more wheat acres than I thought I had, and that means I've got to reduce my new-crop corn and bean acres."

Chicago Board of Trade March wheat finished 12-3/4 cents lower at $4.20-1/2 per bushel, its lowest price since Dec. 20.

CBOT March corn dipped to a contract low of $3.45-1/2, before trimming losses to settle at $3.46-1/4, down 2-1/2 cents.

"We were talking about a (corn) reduction, and we didn't get it, and so I think that's why we're seeing the market sell off," said Price Futures Group analyst Jack Scoville.

CBOT March soybeans gained 10-1/2 cents to $9.60-1/2 per bushel, rebounding from a session low of $9.44-1/2. It was the biggest one-day bounce in soybeans in 2-1/2 weeks, but prices still lost 0.9 percent for the week.

The USDA earlier announced a sale of 320,000 tonnes of U.S. corn to unknown destinations, the largest one-day sale of the crop since November.

China's soybean imports in December were nearly record-large, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data. The country, the world's largest soybean buyer, was experiencing strong demand in the run-up to next month's Lunar New Year holiday. (Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago, Mark Weinraub in Chicago, Nigel Hunt in London and Naveen Thukral in Singapore'; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Adler)

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