It was tricky for commodities to rise on Wednesday.
Euphoria waned at the White House nomination of Janet Yellen, seen as pro-easy monetary policy, as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.
But there is the more pressing issue of the US budget impasse to deal with, concerns cited by traders as the cause of the fall in the CRB index by 0.9%, with copper, for instance, falling to a three-week low.
However, corn managed it, helped by the idea that the talk of exports heard earlier in the week had not been a work of fiction.
An unnamed private Chinese company confirmed that it had bought 420,000 tonnes of US corn, amid rumours that this is not the country's whole tally of recent orders.
Furthermore, Conab, Brazil's crop bureau, reduced its expectation for the Brazilian corn harvest from outline projections last month – albeit to 79.6m-82.6m tonnes, higher than the 72m tonnes that the US Department of Agriculture is forecasting.
(Or at least was when it was still open.)
The problem in Brazil has been, besides relatively high soybean prices luring farmers to the oilseed, too much or too little rain, which has hampered plantings.
The Buenos Aires Cereal Exchange has lowered its estimates for Argentine corn acres too, by 200,000 acres to 8.5m acres, thanks to dryness in Santa Fe and Cordoba.
That countered the weight of the usual tally of bearish talk over, for instance, a break in the weather allowing combines to roll, bringing extra supplies online, and so weighing on prices.
"Harvest progress is continuing and will continue at a rapid pace through much of the weekend and in many areas into next week," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.
The talk of US corn yields being achieved remains upbeat too, with Lanworth's upgrade to 155.4 bushels per acre in its forecast still leaving it among the more pessimistic commentators.
"It is now possible for the corn yield to bubble to 158.5 to 160 bushels per acre," US Commodities said.
'May reflect a weak demand picture'
A rare release of government data, by the US Energy Information Agency, on ethanol output received a mixed response, with some pointing out that, even down 7,000 barrels a day, production last week was still strong by recent standards.
"This is still above last year's number of 800,000 barrels a day," CHS Hedging said, noting that ethanol stocks "fell as well to 15.4m barrels".
However, Mr Holaday looked at the glass half empty, saying that "weekly ethanol production is not growing at the pace that one would have expected.
"This is a concern as it may reflect a weak demand picture for ethanol."
Chicago corn for December ended up 0.4% at $4.43 ½ a bushel, very nearly retaking its 10-day moving average.
Fellow row crop soybeans eased 0.1% to $12.87 ¾ a bushel, if managing to stay just ahead of its 75-day and 100-day moving averages.
While there is plenty of talk of Chinese purchases of US soybeans, there has been no sign of confirmation yet.
Meanwhile, the oilseed too is feeling harvest pressure, and ever strengthening ideas that South American farmers will hike sowings at the cost of corn plantings.
'Rains have stopped'
Wheat declined too, falling 0.4% to $6.90 ½ a bushel in Chicago, with threats to the former Soviet Union sowings shifting down a gear thanks to a turn drier in the weather.
"Rains have stopped in parts of Russia," CHS Hedging said.
"The South Federal District and North Caucasus Federal District will both be able to complete winter wheat planting," although "it is unlikely that the Central and Volga areas will be able to do the same".
And while fears remain alive over Australian dryness, these are being balanced by talk of the strong Canadian crop, and ideas that it is moving into the US.
'Recharging depleted soils'
In fact, US Commodities reckoned that Chicago wheat "has probably put in a seasonal top at $7.00 a bushel" for the December contract.
"India is preparing to re-enter the wheat market. Rain in the US plains is recharging depleted soils," as plantings progress, "and the Black Sea region is having improved weather".
Still, there was some further sign of demand, with Algeria buying 500,000 tonnes of wheat at $290-291 a tonne, soft and freight included.
It will likely come from France, where Paris November wheat actually added 0.6% to E197.50 a tonne.
Egypt unveiled a tender too, although after markets closed, potentially providing an interesting start to trading tomorrow, and an insight into competitive cash values when the results are released later that day.
Reached a top?
Among soft commodities, cocoa's rally stalled as investors took profits ahead of European quarterly grind data expected tomorrow.
New York cocoa for December closed down 0.6% at $2,703 a tonne, but still up 4.6% so far this week.
And raw sugar eased to, by 0.2% to 18.59 cents a pound, as the contract's failure to make much progress in the last session encouraged vertigo.
"Whilst remaining above the 200-day average, not much headway was made which leads us to believe that speculators and funds have done what they needed to do in the short-term and are awaiting further confirmation that the [downward] trend is reversing," Nick Penney, senior trader at Sucden Financial, said.
"Fundamentally, the situation is unchanged with bouts of rainy weather in Centre South Brazil interspersed with good crushing weather."