Undated (AP) _ Soybean futures prices fell to 8 1/2 -month lows Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, dragging grain futures down as well, after the government issued a surprisingly large estimate of the newly harvested crop.

On other commodity markets, oil and precious metal futures fell; cattle futures rose; and pork futures were mixed.

Soybean futures settled 5 cents to 17 1/4 cents lower with the contract for delivery in November at $5.66 3/4 a bushel, the lowest settlement of a near-month soybean contract since Feb. 28, when the March contract finished at $5.66 1/2 .

Wheat futures ended 2 1/2 cents to 3 1/2 cents lower with December at $2.65 3/4 a bushel; corn was 1/2 cent to 2 cents lower with December at $2.31 a bushel; oats were 3 1/2 cents to 4 cents lower with December at $1.17 a bushel.

Soybeans were pounded by heavy selling from all sectors after the Agriculture Department on Thursday released a monthly crop report raising its soybean production estimate 4.4 percent to 1.9 billion bushels from the October estimate of 1.82 billion. The market had expected a number near 1.84 billion.

The report heaped more bearish news on a market that has been burdened recently by slack export demand.

''With export business not being robust, what we need here is lower prices to hopefully induce better demand,'' said Gerald Zusel, grain analyst with E.D. & F. Man International Futures Inc.

The government reduced its corn production estimate to 7.9 billion bushels from 8 billion, which was not enough to offset the bearish implications of the soybean number.

Oil futures fell sharply on the New York Mercantile Exchange amid profit- taking that reflected reduced fears of imminent war in the Middle East.

President Bush's announcement Thursday that more U.S. troops will be sent to Saudi Arabia might indicate the U.S.-led multinational force is preparing to attack Iraq troops eventually, but it quashed expectations for an offensive move in the next few days.

The oil market rallied earlier in the week on perceptions that the U.S. was preparing for an attack this week.

''Now it looks like the attack might be put off for a while,'' said Peter Cardillo, commodity trading adviser with Jesup Josephthal & Co. in New York.

Light sweet crude oil futures finished $1.01 to $1.64 lower with December at $33.89 a barrel; heating oil was 2.55 cents to 4.06 cents lower with December at 90.24 cents a gallon; unleaded gasoline was 1.51 cents to 2.38 cents lower with December at 88.23 cents gallon.

Gold and silver futures retreated on New York's Commodity Exchange in reaction to a variety of bearish factors including lower oil prices, sharply higher stock prices and a government report on wholesale prices that indicated inflation outside the food and energy categories virtually vanished last month.

Platinum futures fell sharply in thin trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold futures were $2.60 to $2.90 lower with December at $386.30 a troy ounce; silver was 4 cents lower across the board with December at $4.237 a troy ounce; platinum was $11.20 to $11.30 lower with January at $410.30 a troy ounce.

Cattle futures advanced, paced by sharp gains in the live cattle market, as strength in the cash cattle and beef markets pulled futures higher.

Recent gains in pork prices have made beef more attractive to retailers, which resulted in stronger packer demand for cattle, said Charles Levitt, senior livestock analyst with Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc.

Hog futures ended mostly lower but pork bellies advanced amid continuing concerns about tight supplies of frozen stocks.

Live cattle were .20 cent to .95 cent higher with December at 78.30 cents a pound; feeder cattle were .20 cent to .55 cent higher with November at 88.15 cents a pound; live hogs were .42 cent lower to .18 cent higher with December at 52.65 cents a pound; frozen pork bellies were .65 cent to 1.25 cents higher with February at 69.85 cents a pound.