The typical grains rally is seen as composed of relatively gentle gains follow by a steep fall. As a market adage has it: "Up the steps and down the elevator shaft."
Wheat maintained a pattern of doing quite the opposite, on Thursday posting a strong rise in Chicago, after a series of smaller declines.
The rise was attributed in the main to the result of the latest Egyptian wheat tender – a 475,000 order - which demonstrated two factors.
First, in taking to 1.25m tonnes purchases by Egyptian grain authority Gasc since it began its 2012-13 import campaign less than a month ago, it highlighted the scramble by buyers for suppliers.
With the last couple of weeks, Saudi Arabia has also bought 575,000 tonnes, with Jordan, Taiwan and Tunisia also among purchasers.
Secondly, the prices that Gasc paid showed Black Sea supplies losing their competitiveness.
OK, the order still went to Romania, Ukraine and, mainly, Russia. But at an average price of some $331 a tonne, up nearly $8 a tonne since the weekend – a period in which Chicago and Paris futures have fallen.
At traders at a major European grain merchant said, "French wheat was offered this time round and was approximately $5 a tonne off competing with the Eastern European wheat".
But that compares with a gap of more than $15 a tonne two weeks ago, and together with evidence of weak Russian and Romanian yields, and reports of Ukrainian merchants agreeing to curb shipments to protect domestic supplies, signals that European and US wheat may soon be getting more of the action.
Russia to curb after all?
Furthermore, there was also market talk of an emergency meeting in Russia to discuss grain supplies, a session whose occurrence a week after the last would imply that potentially export curbs will be introduced after all.
"The trade still expects some sort of Russian export restrictions – but perhaps not an outright ban," UK merchant Gleadell said.
"There is more than one way to skin a cat."
There was also market rumour, again unconfirmed, that offers of Russian wheat to the Gasc tender had been withdrawn, for fear of falling foul of any curbs that Moscow might introduce.
Sowing hopes fade
Still, that was not the only reason for wheat prices to rise by 0.7% in Paris but, in particular, in Chicago, where the benchmark December lot ended 2.7% higher at $8.91 ¾ a bushel.
As an extra boost to the Chicago contract, it recovered back above its 50-day moving average, managing only one close below on the latest stint, and improving its appeal to funds.
Weather was another support, with forecasts turning drier for the US, just as analysts were noting refreshed seed beds in expectations for a rise in winter grain sowings.
"The GFS weather model which has turned drier overnight for the central and southern Plains in the next 48 hours," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said, these being major areas for hard red winter wheat growing.
"What looked promising for Oklahoma and northern Texas yesterday in terms of rainfall has diminished dramatically in the last two GFS runs."
And, indeed, Kansas hard red winter wheat was even stronger, closing 3.0% higher in late deals at $9.13 ¼ a bushel.
'Not enough rationing'
Wheat's performance was one prop to corn.
But it had its own reasons for strength too, including an export sale of 217,424 tonnes of US crop announced by the US Department of Agriculture through its daily reporting system (weekly data will be unveiled on Friday), for sending to an "unknown" destination.
Furthermore, weekly US ethanol data showed an uptick in production of the corn-based (in the US) biofuel.
At 829,000 barrels per day, output was up 10,000 barrels per day on the figure for the week before.
Mr Holaday, terming the figure "bullish", said that this was equivalent to an annual pace of 4.56bn bushels of corn use a year.
"This is not enough of a rationing move," if the USDA in a key report on Wednesday cuts its forecast for the corn harvest even further, as many analysts expect.
And with Macquarie forecasting that prices of the grain could go higher still, eventually, corn for December added 0.9% to end at $7.98 ½ a bushel.
'Threw cold water'
Grains' strength could not quite drag soybeans to a positive close.
But Chicago's benchmark November lot recovered most of its losses of earlier to end down 0.5 cents at $17.47 a bushel.
|This week's US soy crop estimates
Allendale survey - yield, 34.9 bushels per acre; production, 2.602bn bushels
FCStone - yield, 36.7 bushels per acre; production, 2.739bn bushels
Linn Group - yield, 35.9 bushels per acre; production, 2.667bn bushels
Macquarie - yield, N/A; production, 2.65bn bushels
RJ O'Brien - yield, 35.6 bushels per acre
USDA: yield, 36.1 bushels per acre; production, 2.692bn bushels
Besides weakened technicals, with the oilseed widely considered overbought in its run up to Tuesday's record high, soybeans also felt pressure from ideas that the USDA may, in next Wednesday's Wasde crop report, raise its estimate for the domestic soybean yield, after rains refreshed some drought-hit areas.
The idea gained credence when broker FCStone overnight pegged the soybean yield at 36.7 bushels per acre, above the current USDA estimate of 36.1 bushels per acre.
"FC Stones production and yield estimates threw cold water on the grain bull party. This gives the trade a more two-sided view," US Commodities said.
However, if soybean bulls felt a little chill, those in raw sugar were in the freezer, as New York's benchmark October contract fell again.
OK, the drop, of 0.6% was relatively small in the context of a decline of 20% or so since late July.
But the closing price of 18.87 cents a pound represented the lowest finish for a spot contract since August 2010.
The catalyst has been the improved performance of mills in Brazil's key Centre South region which, thanks to drier weather, are making up for ground lost earlier in the season to persistent rains.
'Bears are in command'
At Sucden Financial, Nick Penney said: "Bears are in command, backed by the upcoming statistical surplus and improved conditions in Centre South Brazil," expected to be highlighted in the next cane harvest report from industry group Unica.
This briefing is also "expected to show higher yields as a result of rains mid-year and probably higher sucrose content", he added.
"Millers are no doubt crushing as much cane as they can to make up for lost time earlier in the campaign, and as sugar is still more remunerative than ethanol, the ratio should still be favourable to sugar."
Is the focus on Brazil too much?
Comments by Commerzbank posed the question. It noted that "at present, the expected decrease in Indian sugar production as a result of the poor monsoon season offers no effective crutch for the price because the market appears to be focusing solely on the news of growing supply from Brazil".
For now, at least.
"This is likely to change at the latest when the Brazilian sugar cane harvest comes to an end in November, allowing the price to recover."