sábado, maio 24, 2008

O Mercado a disfuncionar

As I noted in my earlier article, (‘Perhaps 60% of today’s oil price is pure speculation’), ICE was focus of a recent congressional investigation. It was named both in the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations' June 27, 2006, Staff Report and in the House Committee on Energy & Commerce's hearing in December 2007 which looked into unregulated trading in energy futures. Both studies concluded that energy prices' climb to $128 and perhaps beyond is driven by billions of dollars' worth of oil and natural gas futures contracts being placed on the ICE. Through a convenient regulation exception granted by the Bush Administration in January 2006, the ICE Futures trading of US energy futures is not regulated by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, even though the ICE Futures US oil contracts are traded in ICE affiliates in the USA. And at Enron’s request, the CFTC exempted the Over-the-Counter oil futures trades in 2000.

Another added turbo-charger to present speculation in oil prices is the margin rule governing what percent of cash a buyer of a futures contract in oil has to put up to bet on a rising oil price (or falling for that matter). The current NYMEX regulation allows a speculator to put up only 6% of the total value of his oil futures contract. That means a risk-taking hedge fund or bank can buy oil futures with a leverage of 16 to 1.We are hit with an endless series of plausible arguments for the high price of oil: A "terrorism risk premium;" “blistering” rise in demand of China and India; unrest in the Nigerian oil region; oil pipelines' blown up in Iraq; possible war with Iran…And above all the hype about Peak Oil. Oil speculator T. Boone Pickens has reportedly raked in a huge profit on oil futures and argues, conveniently that the world is on the cusp of Peak Oil. So does the Houston investment banker and friend of Dick Cheney, Matt Simmons.

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