Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Timeless Allure of Egg Futures: "Former teenage soldier hatches millions from Chinese egg futures"

Allure may not be the right word.
And timeless is definitely overstating the case but I tell you, there is something about the ovoid.
Or maybe it's just me.
From Reuters:
A decade ago Zhang Xiongjie was a teenage infantryman patrolling China's bleak border with North Korea.
Now he stays in swanky hotels and drives a Mercedes Benz CLS - a remarkable rags-to-riches journey achieved in part by dominating one of the most obscure corners of China's unruly financial markets: egg futures.

The story of how he earned so much money, so fast - 600 million yuan ($96.63 million), he says, in 2014 - highlights the casino-like nature of China's nascent futures markets, and the vulnerability of such markets to a destabilizing rout.

Zhang trades on his own account and Reuters was not able to independently verify his earnings.
"Us poor people, when we are born, we're impoverished and uncultured. If we have such opportunity, why would we not take it?" said the smiling, soft-spoken 27-year-old in an interview.

The opportunity Zhang saw was very specific: to borrow a lot of money quickly to produce high profits in a poorly understood market.

"The leverage is high in futures," Zhang said, who is spoken of as a celebrity by other Chinese traders. "You can make a fortune overnight."

But the high concentration of leveraged retail investors chasing overnight fortunes is a growing concern for China's regulators after recent turmoil in the country's stock market.

The speed of a stocks slide that began in mid-June was exacerbated by the snowball effect of investors who had used borrowed funds to buy shares being forced to sell to meet margin calls.

Zhang, whose trading now ranges well beyond egg futures, himself has already experienced massive busts, saying he lost as much as 400 million yuan in two days on bad calls last year.

Beijing has flitted back and forth between allowing futures - a financial instrument obliging the purchase of an asset at a certain date - the space to grow, and reining in excesses.

In 1998, China closed 14 futures exchanges, citing "illegal engagement in overseas futures," "market manipulation" and "poor regulation," as reasons, according to an official government website. 
But in a bid to open up its markets, China plans to allow trading in more asset classes, aiming to launch crude oil futures around September.

It was Beijing's decision to launch the egg futures market in November 2013 that allowed Zhang, from a poor family in the southeasten port city of Ningbo, to earn his reputation as the trader who dominated the exchange last year.

"If I let it fall, it fell, if I wanted it to rise, it rose," said Zhang, who at the time worked in a specialist consultancy in Wuhan, which collected daily information from across the country on eggs.
Many agricultural commodities trade on futures markets, which developed to allow farmers to hedge against fluctuating prices, although China is currently the only country that trades egg futures, according to the Dalian Commodity Exchange.

Last year, the volume of egg futures traded increased 1,703.3 percent from 2013, making it the 9th largest futures market in the world by volume, according to figures from the Futures Industry Association....MORE

From a June 2013 post, "Inflation: Eggs Take Flight": 

I'm not sure why but this blog has become a repository of egg stories. You might even say we're eggcentric.
The Fabergé  Eggs I understand; eight of them are missing and at $5-10 mil. per, it might actually be worth your time to take an interest in l'oeufs. I'm not sure what's up with the chicken egg stories though....

Some of our eggcentricities:
November 2013
The Chinese Egg Derivatives Roll Out

Feb. 2012
Five Year Returns: Barley Beats Gold

Over the past 5+ years only one of the Agri-Commodities we follow failed to do better than the S&P 500. That one was eggs. However, to give eggs their due, they serve many useful purposes. Breakfast being one that comes immediately to mind. On the other hand, paper equities apparently provide little of value....MORE
April 2011 
"Chart of the Day: Real Egg Prices, 1890-2011"
The cost of wholesale eggs today (adjusted for inflation) is about 50% lower than during the 1970s, about 75% lower than during the 1940s and 1950s.   
March 2013
 What came first Egg or Chicken? Solution Through Granger Causality

April 2009
Mix Butter, Onions, Cheese and Eggs. Add Electricity...
For some reason, this post from Freakonomics got me thinking about the Chicago Butter and Egg board, the Butter, Cheese, and Egg Exchange of New York and Title 7, Ch. 1, § 13–1 U.S. Code*:...MORE