Danny Schechter at Al Jazeera, interviews Philip R. Davis, founder of Phil’s Stock World, about excessive speculation in the oil markets.
Speculators and free market believers may argue that they are not to blame, they are simply trying to make money by following the trends and not holding onto cash, as the Fed is busily devaluing the U.S. Dollar. There is some merit in that argument, but that doesn’t solve the problem.
Addressing the problem begins with identifying the underlying causes – what is enabling and encouraging so much speculation? What kind of regulation might be reasonable? Who are the biggest speculators? I submit that the problem originates with Federal govt’s failure to govern itself and promote a healthy economy, the Federal Reserve’s policy of Quantitative Easing, and the lack of intelligent regulation.
The scam behind the rise in oil, food prices
By Danny Schechter, Al Jazeera
Speculation on the futures market, rather than supply and demand, is driving up costs, analysts say.
The global economy and its recovery, and the living standards of millions of plain folks, are now at risk from the sudden rise in oil and commodity prices.
Gas at the pump is up, and going higher. Food prices are following.
The consequences are catastrophic for the global poor as their costs go up while their income doesn’t. It’s menacing American workers too, who in large part have not seen a meaningful raise since the days of Reagan (keeping it this way is clearly behind the current flurry of attacks on unions).
Already, unrest in the Middle East and many African countries is being blamed for these dramatic increases. It seems as if this threat to global stability is being largely ignored in our media, one that treats the oil business as just another mystical world of free market trading.
Why is it happening? Why all the volatility? Is oil getting scarcer, leading to price increases? Is the cost of food, similarly, a reflection of naturally increasing commodity prices?
While it’s true that natural disasters and droughts play some role in this unchecked price inflation, it also seems apparent that something else is attracting increasing attention, even if most of our media fails to explore what is a political time bomb, while most political leaders shrug their shoulder and ignore it.
President Obama recently said there is nothing he can do about the hike in oil and food prices.
Critics say the problem is that government and media outlets alike refuse to recognise what’s really going on: unchecked speculation!
Not everyone buys into this suspicion. In fact, it is one of more intense subjects of debate in economics.
Princeton University economist Paul Krugman pooh-poohs the impact of speculation counter-posing the traditional argument that oil prices are set by supply and demand.
The Economist agrees, summing up its views with a pithy phrase, “Speculation does not drive the oil price. Driving does.”
Others, like oil industry analyst Michael Klare of Hampshire College in the US, sees demand outdistancing supply:
Consider the recent rise in the price of oil just a faint and early tremor heralding the oilquake to come. Oil won’t disappear from international markets, but in the coming decades it will never reach the volumes needed to satisfy projected world demand, which means that, sooner rather than later, scarcity will become the dominant market condition.
Usually you hear this debate in scholarly circles or read it in political tracts where orthodox views collide with more alarmist projections about the oil supply “peaking”.
But officials in the Third World don’t see the subject as academic. Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao charges that: “Speculative movements in commodity derivative markets are also causing volatility in prices”.
The World Bank has held meetings on the issue, because it is seen as a matter of “utmost urgency”.
“The price of food is a matter of life and death for the very poorest people in the world,” said Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide, the international humanitarian agency, ahead of his participation at The Open Forum on Food at World Bank headquarters.
“With many families spending up to 80 per cent of their income on basic foods to survive, even the slightest increase in price can have devastating effects and become a crises for the poorest,” he said.
Journalist Josh Clark argues on the website “How Stuff Works” that much of the oil speculation is rooted in the financial crisis:
The next time you drive to the gas station, only to find prices are still sky high compared to just a few years ago, take notice of the rows of foreclosed houses you’ll pass along the way. They may seem like two parts of a spell of economic bad luck, but high gas prices and home foreclosures are actually very much inter-related.
Before most people were even aware there was an economic crisis, investment managers abandoned failing mortgage-backed securities and looked for other lucrative investments. What they settled on was oil futures…..Full article and Phil’s interview at Al Jazeera.
Related Reading – Speculation Does Not Explain High Oil and Gasoline Prices? Please!!
The views and opinions expressed herein are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.
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