July 7, 2009

Regulator to study speculative limits

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it was studying the option of setting limits on speculative trading to thwart manipulation of energy markets.

In a statement, CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said hearings would begin this month focused on speculative betting on commodities, in particular energy commodities, such as crude oil, heating oil, natural gas ... and other energy products.

The commission sets limits on agricultural products, but futures exchanges set their own limits on energy trading. However, exchanges are not required to set and enforce position limits to prevent the burdens of excessive speculation, Gensler said.

Gensler also said the regulator would tease apart data in weekly reports to allow for greater transparency on positions taken by hedge funds and swaps dealers.

The CFTC is a relatively small player in the arena of financial regulators, but the impact on markets and consumers can be sizable, given its influence on markets can affect food and energy costs.