Are investors turning equity-bound again?
While New York's S&P 500 share index rose for a third successive day, passing above 1,400 for the first time since May, agricultural commodities found themselves out of favour, after being quite the in-thing of the last couple of months.
Cocoa managed headway, ending up 1.9% at £1,673 a tonne in London for September delivery, the best finish for a spot contract in nigh on nine months, while its New York peer added 1.7% to $2,447 a tonne, the best close since February.
But then, with signs of fresh civil unrest in top producing country Ivory Coast, where fighters loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo have killed 10 soldiers in attacks since Sunday, the bean had its own reasons for strength.
As Societe Generale put it: "Poor weather in West Africa and a restart in violence in Cote d'Ivoire should be enough to support the cocoa market through August.
"The shift from too much rain to too little rain in West Africa should add some support against broader bearish macro concerns."
However, other crops could not even manage the 0.7% gain enjoyed by the average commodity, according to the CRB index.
New York raw sugar for October dropped 1.9% to 21.42 cents a pound, amid continued talk of the boost to the Brazilian Centre South cane harvest from drier weather.
Cane industry group Unica is set this week to unveil its latest crop progress report which "is expected to show a substantial improvement in the pace of the harvest given better weather conditions in the second half July", Nick Penney at Sucden Financial said.
And declines were the order of the day in grain and oilseed markets too, which are preparing for their own key report on Friday, when the US Department of Agriculture unveils its latest Wasde crop supply and demand report.
FCStone noted: "The market is gearing up for Friday's USDA report, with significant adjustments to corn and soybean yields expected," downwards adjustments that is, following drought in important US growing regions.
'Worst of the drought behind us'
But how much lower?
The relentless drop in crop yield estimates appeared to have come to a halt on Tuesday with forecasts from brokers Country Futures of a 125.8 bushels-per-acre US corn yield, and Allendale of a 129.1 bushels-per-acre, coming in above many estimates from late last week, if of course hardly encouraging compared with the 166 bushels per acre the USDA initially expected.
Allendale estimated the soybean yield at 38.1 bushels per acre, above forecasts from the likes of analysis group Lanworth below 36 bushels per acre.
But then USDA data overnight showed the deterioration in US corn and soybean crops slowing too.
FCStone said: "Last night's corn and soybean condition report offers further confirmation that the worst of the drought in the Midwest appears to be behind us," with corn condition falling a modest 1 point to 23% of the crop rated good or excellent and soybeans unchanged at 29%.
Indeed, prospects for rain and cooler temperatures to aid drought hit crops look brighter, to judge by latest runs of weather models.
The one-to-five day outlook shows a "significant cooling" for the Midwest, if one with rains held off east to the likes of Kentucky and West Virginia, besides Ohio, weather service WxRisk.com said.
While hot weather does return in the six-to-10 day outlook, it "comes back at lower latitude. In other words across the Deep South states.
This allows "cold fronts to come south from Canada then stall across the upper plains and the Midwest", WxRisk.com said.
"This sort a pattern is something we haven't seen at all this summer, but it can be a very wet pattern if it sets up exactly right. This is what the GFS Model is showing."
'Hesitant to chase'
This was all hardly helpful to prices, as Benson Quinn Commodities noted.
"With some northern corn benefitting from recent rains, and the effects of a third month of dry weather in portions of the eastern Corn Belt having limited [further] effect, the corn market has lacked the spark needed to trigger additional fund buying and get the speculators to commit to length."
While there has been evidence of some end-user buying, consumers "are hesitant to chase the market higher with harvest approaching", the broker added.
Harvest brings extra supplies, and with them pressure on prices, albeit often temporary softness.
'Talk of a tariff'
Chicago Corn for December closed down 0.6% at $8.00 ½ a bushel for December delivery.
Best-traded November soybeans lost 1.1% to $15.65 ¾ a bushel, despite supportive comment from Oil World, which highlighted a plunge in South American inventories, in the face of resilient demand.
"The weakness, or heavy feel, in the market today seems simply to be tied to the reality that when one is at these prices levels, no news is bad news as the path of least resistance is lower," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.
Even wheat - which has attracted a growing focus in the last few days with its own worldwide crop concerns - dropped too, despite being given some support by continued fears for a Russian export ban to preserve supplies in the face of the second drought-hit harvest in three years.
Goldman Sachs stoked the ideas of potential curbs by cutting its forecast for Russia's exports to a tiny 6.5m tonnes, which will be enforced by constraints, probably duties, "if needed".
US broker RJ O'Brien reported "talk in the market that Moscow will impose a 20-30% wheat export tariff".
But more news may emerge on Wednesday, after Russia's government holds a food security meeting.
Chicago vs Paris
Goldman Sachs, which cut harvest expectations for other producers such as Argentina and Kazakhstan too, in fact recommended a trade of selling Chicago wheat and buying its Paris peer.
European Union wheat, after all, looks first in line to benefit from displaced purchasing pressure if Russian shipments do indeed fall anywhere near 6.5m tonnes in 2012-13, from more than 21m tonnes last season.
And that was certainly how the market ended, with the 0.6% drop to $8.89 a bushel in Chicago wheat a notable underperformance compared with European prices.
Paris wheat for November added 0.1% to E258.75 a tonne, while its London peer gained 0.7% to £192.90 a tonne for November.