My friend Rob Fraim on Speculators:
You know, we don’t mind it when speculators drive up the price of our stock portfolios. And we didn’t complain when speculators made our house values rise.
However, now that (arguably) speculators are said to be driving up the price of oil, we hear the outcries of outrage and the call for more regulation on energy trading. “Speculator” becomes a bad word all of a sudden and said speculators are evil and must be stopped. So many are saying at least.
But let’s take a deep breath. What has always happened after speculative forces have driven the price of stocks too high? Eventually they corrected to reasonable levels (and beyond.) And what about the recent speculation-driven housing boom? It busted.
If a price movement is purely driven by speculators, at some point the market will do what the market does and the aberrant price will normalize. If on the other hand the reasons for the movement of a market are fundamentally rather than speculatively based, then all of the grumbling and grousing about speculators is shown to be irrelevant.
If skyrocketing oil is the fault of speculators time will work it out, and some of the speculators will be burned. The risk we run is that in pointing fingers at market participants and blaming them for energy prices, we end up having our attention diverted from the fundamental issues that need to be addressed – energy exploration, governmental policy, energy conservation, improving energy efficiency and most importantly the need to develop energy technology and alternative energy sources to ultimately make oil a much less critical commodity.
Good stuff — thanks, Rob!