After the strong gains on Tuesday for soybeans, and reversal in the last session, what next?
The volatility which has beset grain and oilseed trading earlier in the week took a breather on Thursday, an absence which found an echo in many markets.
Shares closed up all of 0.1% in Tokyo, and showed small losses in Shanghai, while the dollar gained 0.1%, and Brent crude eased 0.2% in a calm attributed in part to a wait on French news on a potential US strike on Syria, and in part to the prospect of key US jobs data on Friday.
"We expect this Friday's employment report to seal the deal on a September tapering announcement," Société Générale said, a reference to the significance of the data in determining the course of US monetary policy.
'Rather large fear premium'
For soybeans, the source of particular volatility this week, there was something of a stasis, with little fresh thinking on yield prospects.
"What is the market trading as a national average yield? We can't be sure at the moment but we certainly think there is a rather large fear premium built into this price," one broker said.
"As we progress into harvest more will be known about the crop size which could ease some of the market fears."
Still, FCStone overnighted pegged the US soybean yield at 41.2 bushels per acre – pretty much in line with the level the market has already factored in, given a Reuters poll which showed a figure of 41.1 bushels per acre.
OK, the weather forecast is looking more benign for next week, with more moisture, making heat less threatening – indeed a boon, in potentially speeding up soybean development.
But on the plus side for prices, the US cash market has recovered too from weakness on Tuesday.
"Soy basis at the Gulf and at select western crushers firmed again on a lack of movement and ongoing red-hot soymeal basis in eastern areas, where remaining soybean supplies are virtually depleted," Richard Feltes at RJ O'Brien said.
"Western crushers report brisk demand for meal moving into the eastern Midwest."
That said, Mr Feltes said that "we believe that November soybean highs for now are in and that broad trading range of $12.60-13.60 a bushel will define trade until actual harvest results.
"The soy market, the clear floor leader, is treading water awaiting reliable ground truth on the 2013 US soybean crop size."
This is a factor "which is unlikely to emerge" from a US Department of Agriculture Wasde report due next week, which will update forecasts for both domestic and world crop supply and demand.
November soybeans gained in Chicago, but by all of 0.3% to $13.56 a bushel as of 09:10 UK time (03:10 Chicago time).
'Very good yields'
Still, that allowed the oilseed to rebuild some of its premium over corn, which eased 0.3% to $4.68 ¼ a bushel, allowing the soybean: corn ratio to rebuild a touch nearly back to 2.90: 1.
The grain has underperformed soybeans for a number of reasons, including the idea that the US crop is too far along to be seriously threatened by the current dry spell.
Indeed, FCStone put the US yield at 156.4 bushels per acre, above the USDA figure of 154.4 bushels per acre, and the Reuters poll reading of 154.0 bushels per acre.
Furthermore, the US harvest is ramping up, meaning extra supplies, and with good results too.
"So far we have been hearing very good corn yields coming out of the South. This has probably been a source of resistance for corn futures," a US broker said.
'Hard to be bullish'
The demand side picture is not too helpful either.
"Demand news is quiet on the export front with no new tenders to report," Benson Quinn Commodities said, with competition from Brazilian hotting up, after its safrinha harvest, the source of its export supplies, and from Ukraine too (of which more later).
Indeed, Ukrlandfarming said it aims in 2013-14 to export 500,000-700,000 tonnes of corn to China, a sensitive market given its huge potential for orders, and its reliance so far largely on US supplies.
"It's still very hard to draw a bullish picture on corn even when using the low end of US yield estimates," Benson Quinn said.
'Worsening crop conditions'
With corn easing, fellow grain wheat, a market follower of late, declined too, despite some concerns over the Argentine crop, threatened by dryness, as well as Australia's where frost has been a setback too, besides a dearth of rainfall in some areas.
Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said that "local grain basis remains firm, particularly in the Newcastle and Brisbane port zones, owing to worsening crop conditions", and with the weather forecast "likely to remain warm and very dry for north west New South Wales and Queensland.
"This outlook bodes poorly for regions grain and oilseed production prospects," Mr Mathews said, adding that Abares, the official commodities bureau, was likely next week to cut its crop estimate below 25m tonnes.
That said, grain handler CBH has raised its estimate for the overall grains crop in Western Australia, typically the top grain producing state, to 10m-10.6m tonnes, from 9m tonnes.
As an extra potential support, some investors read Ukraine's diminishing profile in wheat orders by Egypt's Gasc grain authority, with the country now being undercut by Russia, as a sign of an retreat from the market to clear the decks for shipments of its huge corn harvest.
"The interesting twist on today's Gasc purchase was Ukraine backing off their offer by $6 a tonne," Brian Henry at Benson Quinn said.
"The initial reaction is Ukraine doesn't want to offer Gasc specifications, but ideas that Ukraine is setting up to move corn from November on, is a valid side story"
Still, Mr Henry remained sceptical on the prospects for much of a move in wheat prices.
"There really isn't anything here that says buy wheat, but I am not convinced that a move lower from these levels is going to be a sharp move either."
Chicago wheat for December eased 0.2% to $6.45 ¼ a bushel.
Among soft commodities, a bounce was in evidence from weakness in the last session.
Arabica coffee for December added 0.1% to 117.00 cents a pound in New York, where October raw sugar was up 0.6% at 16.47 cents a pound.
Much focus will be on cocoa, after it hit its highest in New York on Wednesday for nearly a year, "due to the spurring of investor buying as cocoa prices fell to its technical support", Joyce Liu at Phillip Futures said.
"The market was also supported by expected upward revisions to the forecasted 2012-13 global deficit of cocoa supplies."