Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Speculation vs. Manipulation

The newly installed head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has his sights set on establishing tighter position limits on energy futures position sizes, or at least enforcing limits currently in place.

The conversation around this has led to an interesting debate on whether what the chart above depicts is speculation or manipulation. The price of a barrel of oil went from below $30 to $147 in the space of 6 years. That is fact. If it went there because someone forced it there, that's manipulation. If a lot of market players just really wanted to own it, that's speculation and not illegal.

Without abolshing the futures contracts, I don't see how you get rid of speculation. When Amazon.com's share price went from $2 to $100, I don't recall anyone calling that manipulation. Silly yes, manipulation no.

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