Investors turned to profit taking on soybeans, after Chicago's benchmark contract recorded in the last session its highest close in a year, spurred by a downgrade to hopes for the US crop.
Fridays are, after all, often a period when investors close positions, during a volatile market, for fear of what the weekend might bring when they are unable to trade.
And with soybeans lower, the grains, for which fundamentals are not nearly so strong, had little chance of gains.
More downgrades ahead?
There is certainly an even stronger case for high soybean prices, after the US Department of Agriculture on Thursday, in its much-watched monthly Wasde report, cut its estimate for the domestic yield by 1.4 bushels per acre after the summer dryness.
"Even though this was what the market was already guessing, it was still a record yield reduction from the August Wasde to September Wasde reports," one broker said,
(In fact, that is not quite correct, with the September 2003 Wasde seeing a 3.0-bushels-per-acre reduction. But it was historically large.)
There is some feeling that this downgrade may not be the last given that it has used a pod count number which is higher than many analysts believe will turn out correct.
"If counts are as low as they say they are, we could see some more room for final yield to decline," the broker said.
Whatever, results from the early US harvest, the ultimate determinant, are mixed from the early cuts.
"We haven't had a lot of bean data flowing in but the few yields we've heard have been disappointing," the broker said.
At RJ O'Brien, Richard Feltes flagged talk that in the Midsouth yields are "holding up well" for full-season soybeans, but that southern states "need rain to bring along double crop beans", those planted on fields vacated by the winter wheat harvest.
Reasons to curb enthusiasm
However, how high should prices be?
Goldman Sachs, while hiking its forecast for short-term prices by $2.00 per bushel, left its estimate, at $12.50 per bushel, well below the futures curve.
US export sales data also released on Thursday appeared to show some dent from high prices too, coming in at 478,000 tonnes, well below market expectations of 650,000-800,000 tonnes.
Besides, technically, the market is "overbought" too, Benson Quinn Commodities cautioned.
"The start to the Brazilian planting season next week and a record large Brazilian production estimate, along with pending US harvest pressure, caps rallies in the short run," the broker said.
Soybean futures for November stood 0.4% lower at $13.91 a bushel in Chicago as of 09:15 UK time (03:15 Chicago time).
Bearish for corn
And with soybeans, the market leader, struggling, grains dropped too.
The Wasde was anyway viewed as bearish for corn, in coming in with a surprise upgrade to the US yield estimate, by 0.9 bushels per acre to 154.4 bushels per acre, when investors had expected a small decrease.
The harvest was lifted to a record 13.84bn bushels, "more than 28% larger than the drought-affected 2012 crop and 14% above the five-year average", Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.
Nor were the weekly US export sales data encouraging, coming in at 332,600 tonnes, below market expectations of 400,000-500,000 tonnes.
Soybeans vs corn
Indeed, the one factor corn has had on its side is the strength of soybeans, with values of the two historically showing a link.
However, even that tie is stretching, with the price ratio of November soybeans to December corn now at 3.0:1, up from less than 2.2:1 early in the year.
One hope for bulls is of a downgrade to the US estimate for corn acres thanks to sowings abandoned thanks to the wet spring, losses on which Farm Service Agency data next week will throw some light.
For now, December corn was down 0.7% at $4.63 a bushel.
And that boded ill for wheat too, for which the Wasde was viewed as broadly neutral to bearish, raising the forecast for world production to a record high of 708.9m tonnes, but with demand strong too.
And there is some potential for crop downgrades, with the report failing, as many analysts had expected, to cut estimates for Argentina, Brazilian or Australian crops.
"Surprisingly, the Australian crop was unchanged at 25.5m tonnes, despite Abares' downward revision this week to 24.5m tonnes," CBA's Luke Mathews noted.
"However, the large year on year increase in total US grain supplies, because of larger corn output, should continue to contain future US wheat values."
'Hasn't gone well so far'
Benson Quinn Commodities offered wheat bulls hope from a technical perspective.
"The lows in Chicago and Kansas City have been tested multiple times to no avail, which should offer some optimism to those that want to try to play the seasonal strength," with wheat prices often rising after the close of harvest, the broker said.
"That being said the seasonal strength usually starts in early August for the winter wheat contracts. So that play hasn't gone well so far."
In fact, Chicago winter wheat for December was 0.7% lower at $6.48 ¼ a bushel, fighting a battle to stay above its 10-day moving average 1 cent below, which it closed above in the last session for the first time this month.
It has already surrendered its 20-day moving average, at a little under $6.50 a bushel, which it also closed above in the last session for the first time in September.
Among soft commodities, cocoa opened firm, adding 0.4% to hit $2,602 a tonne in New York for December delivery, helped by comments from Marex Spectron on Thursday on ideas of world production shortfalls in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and of poor cover by consumers.
The contract has not since September last year topped $2,600 a tonne.
"A global cocoa deficit of 134,000 tonnes was forecasted in 2013-14 [by Marex] and this caused concerns, especially coupled with dry conditions in West Africa which could adversely affect cocoa production," Joyce Liu at Phillip Futures said.
"We are bullish on cocoa prices due to the increase in demand for cocoa."
And raw sugar edged higher too, by 0.2% to 17.22 cents a pound, ahead of data expected later from Kingsman.