Soybeans, which had waned as agricultural commodity bulls' hero after a summer of resilience, retook the limelight, overshadowing stagnant wheat.
The factor widely attributed for the oilseeds' head towards a firm finish, standing up 0.7% at $12.96 ¾ a bushel in Chicago for November delivery, was a surprise downgrade by Informa Economics to its estimate for the US yield this year.
Informa cut its forecast for the yield by 0.7 bushels per acre to 41.7 bushels per acre, rather than keeping it around the levels of 42.5 bushels per acre that investors have been counting on.
However, that was only the last straw that broke the bears' backs – in this session at least.
'Basis was steady to higher'
The oilseed has also been getting support from South American planting difficulties.
US Commodities noted that "Brazil and Argentina are expected to turn warmer and wetter next week," good for crops already in the ground, but not so promising when farmers have yet to plant most of their soybeans
And there is a firm US cash market to factor in too.
"Soybean basis was steady to higher at the Gulf as South American competition on export markets decreases going into early next year," Paul Georgy at Chicago-based broker Allendale said.
And this when China, the top soybean importer, "is still closed for holiday".
'Attractive crush margins'
At RJ O'Brien, Richard Feltes noted that "trade chatter that the US Department of Agriculture may be understating the 2013-14 US soy crush by 40m-50m bushels in the wake of stepped-up US soymeal export demand triggered by a reduced Argentine crush".
Tight soybean supplies, caused by farmers hoarding crops as a hedge against inflation, are dogging output by crushers in Argentina, the top exporters.
In the US, "attractive crush margins", helped by buoyant demand domestically and from importers, are boosting the soybean and soymeal cash markets, Mr Feltes said.
Meanwhile, rains are, for now, slowing the US harvest and stopping the flow of encouraging yield results.
And, technically, too soybeans boosted their credentials by, for November, crossing back above the 50-day moving average in this session, having retaking the 75-day, 100-day and 200-day lines in the last session.
'Logistics problems abound'
Wheat, meanwhile, was 0.2% lower at $6.88 a bushel in late deals in Chicago, for December delivery, dogged by profit-taking as investors await evidence that talk of strong demand for US supplies is true.
In fact, Canada lifted its official estimate for its wheat harvest to a record high of 33.03m tonnes, slightly above expectations, and up 22% year on year, although getting the crop to market may not be so easy.
"While the Canadian wheat crop if realised would be record large, logistics problems abound with railroads unable to move that large of a crop into the export markets," Benson Quinn Commodities said.
"About 80% of Canadian wheat demand is for export with most moving by rail either into or through the US, or to the west coast ports."
And that was not the only crop upgrade, with industry group Coceral lifting its forecast for the European Union harvest, and producers' lobby Copa-Cogeca, if coming in with a lower forecast, flagging the strong quality of the crop.
Such ideas helped dilute the impact of some crop downgrades, with Informa cutting by 2.7m tonnes to 11m tonnes in its estimate for the Argentine crop (albeit a forecast still more upbeat than the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's estimate on Thursday of 9.5m tonnes).
Hopes for former Soviet Union supplies in 2014-15 also got another dent when Ukraine's agriculture minister told reports that the country's wheat harvest could drop to 15m tonnes next year, from 22m tonnes this year, thanks to the dire sowing conditions.
Nonetheless, it was not enough to prevent wheat losing ground in European markets too, closing down 0.3% at E194.50 a tonne in Paris, and by 0.6% at £158.75 a tonne in London.
'Corn crops are getting bigger'
Back in Chicago, corn sided with its fellow row crop soybeans rather than wheat, getting support from a late wave of covering of some of hedge funds' huge short positions, with an Informa upgrade helping too.
While the group lifted its forecast for the US yield to 158.8 bushels per acre, from 157.6 bushels per acre, that is well short of some of the numbers that have been mentioned of late.
"Yield reports are indicating that the corn crops are getting bigger than the USDA's lowered September forecasts, with the latest talk that the corn yield could be upwards of 164 bushels per acre," Benson Quinn Commodities said.
Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said: "We certainly don't agree with the [Informa] corn yield as our estimate turned in this week was 159 bushels per acre."
Corn vs wheat
Another factor helping corn is extent of its discount to wheat, an important factor given that the two grains are interchangeable in many uses.
"The USDA's forecast for a near-4m-tonne gain in 2013-14 global wheat feeding may be high in view of the December wheat-corn spread at $2.50 a bushel," Mr Feltes said.
"The wheat market is sending a strong signal to curtail its use as a feed ingredient."
Corn for December stood up 0.7% at $4.42 ½ a bushel."
Among soft commodities, cocoa proved the standout performer, adding 1.1% to $2,611 a tonne in New York for December delivery, and 1.8% to £1,694 a tonne in London.
London's extra gain was helped by a recovery in the US dollar, by 0.5% against a basket of currencies, meaning sterling-denominated cocoa futures had to pedal that bit faster to keep up with their dollar-denominated peers.
A recovery had been forecast by Joyce Liu at Phillip Futures, who noted the rise in the guaranteed minimum price in Ivory Coast, the top cocoa producer and exporter, and the prospect of upbeat European grind data next week.
"There were expectations of grind numbers being adjusted higher due to revisions after discrepancies in the previous quarters," she said.