Friday, November 9, 2007

Should we blame energy traders for high oil prices?

From Foreign Policy's Passport blog;

An Indian official telling a New York Times reporter he'd like to see the trade in crude oil banned from the New York Mercantile Exchange is kind of extreme, but not surprising given the context.

One of the unique features of this period of high oil prices is that oil derivatives (basically contracts such as futures and options) are now being traded on a massive scale. Like never before, paper oil is changing hands, to the point where crude oil has become an asset class. You've got to have it in your portfolio the way you have to own gold, stocks, and bonds.

Back in the 1970s, there was no IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) where oil was traded globally. Nor were there as many different ways for investors, such as exchange-traded funds, to play crude. Around 85 million barrels were actually consumed in the world Wednesday. But on the same day, over 600 million barrels worth of crude futures were traded via ICE (adding up the contracts for two kinds of crude traded, West Texas Intermediate and Brent)....MORE