Something’s in the wind . . .

What kind of a crazy world is it where Italy can get knocked out of the World Cup by Slovakia and France gets booted by South Africa?

Crazy, crazy, crazy. Those two met in the final of the last World Cup – with Italy becoming champions – and both have failed to make it out of the easy round of the World Cup.

Less surprising is England’s lacklustre performance, which is – unhappily – fully predictable. They’ve made it through to the second round, but whether they can beat Germany on Sunday is a question I am not allowing myself to even think about. If on Sunday you hear a distant scream and a bunch of stuff being broken, that’ll be me in Winnipeg reacting to an English loss.

Something’s in the air amongst the teams at this year’s World Cup in South Africa, a foul, gagging wind for the presumed favourites in the tournament but a sweet breath of spring for odds-against teams that no one expected much of two weeks ago. A shift in the zeitgeist.

I’m going to abuse this as a metaphor and bend it like Beckham to describe the feelings that are swirling through the grain markets right now, forming currents, countercurrents, eddies and foam that make establishing direction a pretty tough job right now. The market newswires are full of reports of problems with crops in Russia, China, Canada, parts of the U.S., but also great conditions in South America. Is this just typical weather-season stuff, or are problems out there more significant than in recent years? That’s what I’ve been asking weather and crop condition analysts.

Haven’t gotten a very clear answer yet.

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And how are the outside markets affecting ag? Are the worries about Greece and Spain scaring-down demand? Is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill dragging down confidence by highlighting American impotence? Are signs of a return of U.S. economic expansion boosting demand? Has China’s ginger moves toward unpegging the yuan been stoking hopes for higher world commodity consumption? Did that weird earthquake that struck yesterday in Ottawa just as the world’s leaders were arriving shake confidence?

Haven’t gotten very clear answers on those questions either.

It’s a weird time in the world right now, with terribly unsettled financial. economic and football conditions bedeviling everyone’s predictive apparatus. I must say this triggers dim memories in me of the situation of the mid-1970s, when it could seem like both good times and bad times at once. (Look at this clip and tell me whether this vintage piece of 1970s culture was a peak of civilization, or its nadir.) watch?v=2IIl3zSYL8k&feature=PlayList&p=39B07280EB9E6C47&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=10

What I’m hoping is that this is an odd little moment of stagnation before the grain markets move decisively higher. A couple of days ago I said the oats and canola markets looked to me like they were forming pennants, which are continuation patterns. That’s a good thing. A few days on, these look more like flags, but it’s pretty much the same sort of formation. Here’s what Nov canola looks like now:

40814d242ca3d21f598355cdd5293b3aIt’d sure be nice to see this market strip itself naked of its present dithering and streak high and proud, like that guy behind David Niven. That’d be a nice resolution for this present unsettled situation. Certainly a lot better than stumbling disconsolately into the economy cabin of a plane, like the defeated bums of the French and Italian football teams.

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