While Western economies run on productivity and investment, they also are heavily influenced by perception. That was the case this week as the government revealed that economic growth failed to meet expectations.
The U.S. economy raced ahead at a 3.1 percent rate in the third quarter, but analysts had expected an even better performance. The Dow responded by losing ground. There also were tangible signs of weakness, like drawbacks in manufacturing activity and consumer spending.
Traders in the commodity markets also were dealing with conflicting variables, especially in the bean pits.
First, heavy deliveries on the November futures contract brought harvest pressure to bear, normally a negative factor.
Second, huge export sales of more than 1.6-million tons soared well above trade expectations, normally a positive factor.
And third, changing weather patterns over Brazil, where a huge crop is expected, meant the possible end of the drought there. That's the wait-and-see factor.
On the home front, the U.S. soybean harvest is now 84 percent complete, two-thirds of the corn crop is out of the ground, and almost half of the cotton crop has been baled.