With continued volatility in the commodity markets, and the impact of that volatility on the price of oil, it should be little surprise that various governmental bodies are taking aim at speculators. This past Monday, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a report which concluded that speculators play a large role in driving surges in commodity prices. The report goes on to recommend that governments engage in “direct intervention” in markets to deflate commodity bubbles. The report cites the use of transactions taxes as one possible means of intervention to slow commodities speculation. In regards to oil, the report states “that speculation currently accounts for as much as 20 percent” of the current price of crude oil. Additionally, we are hearing that the staff of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is planning an investigation into the role of speculation in crude oil pricing. Given that Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) an avowed opponent of non-end users in the commodities markets, is the Chairman of the subcommittee, the results of the study will likely mirror those of the UNCTAD study. However, unlike the UN study, the permanent subcommittee has the power to make recommendations to the Department of Justice about prosecutions.
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