2008年8月22日金曜日

原油高 投機主因はスイス企業

原油高の投機主因はスイス企業らしい。
スイスの大手商品取引会社が7月、ニューヨーク・マーカンタイル取引所の
原油先物市場で一時、市場シェアで10%を超える投機的な取引をしていたこと
がCFTCの調査で分かった。
米政府は、原油高騰は新興国の経済成長による需給関係の悪化が原因として
いたが、今回の調査結果は投機主因説を後押ししそうだとのこと。

スイス企業はVitol Groupらしい。
外電では実名が出ているがなぜか日本では明らかにされない。なぜだろう。
ゴールドマン・サックスは、原油価格が年末までに1バレル=149ドルになる
と予測した。これこそが投機ではないのだろうか。


---原油高、やはり投機主因 スイス企業が大取引---
2008年8月22日 10時50分
http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/s/article/2008082290105035.html

 【ワシントン21日共同】スイスの大手商品取引会社が7月、ニューヨーク・マーカンタイル取引所の原油先物市場で一時、市場シェアで10%を超える投機的な取引をしていたことが米商品先物取引委員会(CFTC)の調査で分かった。米メディアが21日までに伝えた。
 米政府は、原油高騰は新興国の経済成長による需給関係の悪化が原因としていたが、今回の調査結果は投機主因説を後押ししそうだ。
 米当局はこれまで、この商品取引会社を取引規制が課される「投機筋」ではなく、石油会社や航空会社などと同じ「実需筋」に区分していた。米証券大手など大手金融機関の一部も実需筋に区分され取引量の上限がなく、投機マネーの実態は不透明なままだ。
 米議会は「原油先物市場の投機マネーは、これまで考えていたより大きな影響力がある」(民主党下院議員)とし、規制強化策を盛り込んだ法案の成立を目指す方針だ。


---Report: One trader held 11 pct of Nymex contracts---
The Associated Press
Published: August 21, 2008
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/08/21/business/NA-US-Oil-Markets-Speculation.php

NEW YORK: A single energy conglomerate held 11 percent of all contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange at one point last month, according to a published report Thursday, suggesting that speculators may have played a larger part in volatile oil markets than once thought.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission made an unusual request last month for data from Vitol Group, a private Swiss energy company that regulators thought was helping industrial firms get the oil they needed, according to The Washington Post.

The commission discovered, however, that the Vitol would be better described as a speculator, trading oil contracts to turn profits rather than assisting companies that actually needed oil delivered for their operations.

The report comes one month after the Interagency Task Force on Commodity Markets, chaired by the commission, released an interim report saying record oil prices were the result of "fundamental supply and demand factors."

"It is now evident that speculators in the energy futures markets play a much larger role than previously thought, and it is now even harder to accept the agency's laughable assertion that excessive speculation has not contributed to rising energy prices," said Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat.

Dingell told the Post it was "difficult to comprehend how the CFTC would allow a trader" to acquire such a large oil inventory "and not scrutinize this position any sooner."

A number of lawmakers have blamed speculators for the spike in oil prices and last week, four Democratic senators asked for an investigation into the commission's report, which they said was based on flawed information.

The commission never named Vitol. The Wall Street Journal identified the company in a report Wednesday which cited unidentified people familiar with the matter. The Post cited two anonymous sources that it said had direct knowledge of the commission's request in their report.

The commission investigation showed Vitol was one of the most active traders of oil on Nymex as prices reached record levels.

By June 6, Vitol had amassed contracts equal to 57.7 million barrels of oil, about three times the amount the United States consumes daily. On that day, the price for a barrel of oil spiked $11 to settle at $138.54, per barrel, valuing Vitol's oil holding at nearly $8 billion.

Vitol said its positions in the market on that day suggest it was operating as any commercial trader would.

"The Vitol Group's net crude futures position on the main international exchanges on 6th of June was in fact short eleven million barrels," said company spokeswoman Victoria Dix. "This short position reflects the Group's extensive use of the exchanges for managing price risk on the physical oil it supplies, as is standard practice throughout the oil industry.

The Vitol Group ships more than four million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products each day to international markets, Dix said.

Commission documents do not show how much Vitol had put down to acquire the contracts it held by June 6. Nymex allows traders to acquire contracts by putting up margins, which can amount to a fraction of the actual worth.

So-called "swap dealers" operate in oil markets by investing on behalf of hedge funds and wealthy individuals who have no plans to take delivery, or buy an actual contract for oil.

The commission's data show that at the end of July, just four swap dealers held one-third of all Nymex oil contracts that bet prices would increase.

Last month, the commission reclassified a huge oil trader as a noncommercial speculator. Industry analysts immediately began to rethink what might be moving oil prices.

Commodities traders rely on weekly reports from the commission that classifies market players as commercial or speculative, without releasing names.

Those reports are coming under increased scrutiny as traders begin to question the transparency of the market.

It is difficult to classify market players, however, because some banks and hedge funds actually own infrastructure, such as storage tanks and pipelines and power plants. Like airlines and other businesses that try to protect themselves from crude price swings, they too may be hedging.

The commission continues to pour over a massive amount of data submitted by large traders and it is asking for additional information.


---A Few Speculators Dominate Vast Market for Oil Trading---
By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008;
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/20/AR2008082003898.html?hpid=topnews

Regulators had long classified a private Swiss energy conglomerate called Vitol as a trader that primarily helped industrial firms that needed oil to run their businesses.

But when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission examined Vitol's books last month, it found that the firm was in fact more of a speculator, holding oil contracts as a profit-making investment rather than a means of lining up the actual delivery of fuel. Even more surprising to the commodities markets was the massive size of Vitol's portfolio -- at one point in July, the firm held 11 percent of all the oil contracts on the regulated New York Mercantile Exchange.

The discovery revealed how an individual financial player had gained enormous sway over the oil market without the knowledge of regulators. Other CFTC data showed that a significant amount of trading activity was concentrated in the hands of just a few speculators.

The CFTC, which learned about the nature of Vitol's activities only after making an unusual request for data from the firm, now reports that financial firms speculating for their clients or for themselves account for about 81 percent of the oil contracts on NYMEX, a far bigger share than had previously been stated by the agency. That figure may rise in coming weeks as the CFTC checks the status of other big traders.

Some lawmakers have blamed these firms for the volatility of oil prices, including the tremendous run-up that peaked earlier in the summer.

"It is now evident that speculators in the energy futures markets play a much larger role than previously thought, and it is now even harder to accept the agency's laughable assertion that excessive speculation has not contributed to rising energy prices," said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.). He added that it was "difficult to comprehend how the CFTC would allow a trader" to acquire such a large oil inventory "and not scrutinize this position any sooner."

The CFTC, which refrains from naming specific traders in its reports, did not publicly identify Vitol.

The agency's report showed only the size of the holdings of an unnamed trader. Vitol's identity as that trader was confirmed by two industry sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

CFTC documents show Vitol was one of the most active traders of oil on NYMEX as prices reached record levels. By June 6, for instance, Vitol had acquired a huge holding in oil contracts, betting prices would rise. The contracts were equal to 57.7 million barrels of oil -- about three times the amount the United States consumes daily. That day, the price of oil spiked $11 to settle at $138.54. Oil prices eventually peaked at $147.27 a barrel on July 11 before falling back to settle at $114.98 yesterday.

The documents do not say how much Vitol put down to acquire this position, but under NYMEX rules, the down payment could have been as little as $1 billion, with the company borrowing the rest.

The biggest players on the commodity exchanges often operate as "swap dealers" who primarily invest on behalf of hedge funds, wealthy individuals and pension funds, allowing these investors to enjoy returns without having to buy an actual contract for oil or other goods. Some dealers also manage commodity trading for commercial firms.

To build up the vast holdings this practice entails, some swap dealers have maneuvered behind the scenes, exploiting their political influence and gaps in oversight to gain exemptions from regulatory limits and permission to set up new, unregulated markets. Many big traders are active not only on NYMEX but also on private and overseas markets beyond the CFTC's purview. These openings have given the firms nearly unfettered access to the trading of vital goods, including oil, cotton and corn.

Using swap dealers as middlemen, investment funds have poured into the commodity markets, raising their holdings to $260 billion this year from $13 billion in 2003. During that same period, the price of crude oil rose unabated every year.

CFTC data show that at the end of July, just four swap dealers held one-third of all NYMEX oil contracts that bet prices would increase. Dealers make trades that forecast prices will either rise or fall. Energy analysts say these data are evidence of the concentration of power in the markets.

CFTC leaders have argued that speculators are not influencing commodities' prices. If any new information arises during the agency's examination of swap dealer activity, officials said they would report it to Congress.

"To date, the CFTC has found that supply and demand fundamentals offer the best explanation for the systematic rise in oil prices," CFTC spokesman R. David Gary said, reading a statement that had been crafted by agency officials. "Regardless of their classification . . . the CFTC's market surveillance group scrutinizes daily the positions of all large traders, both commercial and non-commercial, to guard against market manipulation."

Victoria Dix, a spokeswoman for Vitol, declined to answer questions. The firm, through Dix, released a statement that stated only that it had not been contacted by the CFTC about the reclassification of its business and that its trading status remained unchanged. CFTC officials said they do not typically contact firms that are reclassified.
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On its Web site, the firm says it has $100 billion a year in revenue and describes its thriving global energy-trading business.

For most of the past century, regulators put limits on financial actors to prevent them from dominating commodity exchanges, which were much smaller than the bond or stock markets. Only commercial operations, such as farms, airlines, manufacturers and the middlemen that handle their trading activities, were allowed to buy nearly unlimited quantities. The goal was to allow these businesses to minimize the effect of price swings.

The first major change to this regulatory framework occurred in 1991, when Goldman Sachs, through a subsidiary called J. Aron, argued that it should be granted the same exemption given to commercial traders because its business of buying commodities on behalf of investors was similar to the middlemen who broker commodity transactions for commercial firms.

The CFTC granted this request. More exemptions soon followed, including one to the Houston-based energy trader Enron.

"When the CFTC granted the 1991 hedging exemption to J. Aron (a division of Goldman Sachs), it signaled a major shift that has since allowed investors to accumulate enormous positions for purely speculative purposes," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) Now, he added, "legitimate businesses that hedge and take physical delivery of oil are being trampled by the speculators who are in the market purely to make profit."

A second turning point came when Congress passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. The law formally allowed investors to trade energy commodities on private electronic platforms outside the purview of regulators. Critics have called this piece of legislation the "Enron loophole," saying Enron played a role in crafting it.

In the months after the act was passed, private electronic trading platforms sprang up across the country, challenging the dominance of NYMEX.

"Investment banks had been frustrated with the established exchange because they really were never able to get control of it," said Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a former staff member at the CFTC.

The most successful of the private platforms was InterContinental Exchange, or ICE, founded by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and a few other big brokerages in 2000. ICE soon opened a trading platform in London, allowing its founders to trade vast quantities of U.S. oil overseas without being subject to regulation.

The exemptions for swap dealers and the development of overseas markets allowed big brokerages to open the door for more hedge funds, pensions and big investors to move into commodities.

In the coming years, commodity investments by funds could grow to $1 trillion, veteran hedge fund manager Michael Masters said in testimony before the Senate earlier this year. In an interview, he said this trend could raise commodity prices for everyone in the coming years and "have catastrophic economic effects on millions of already stressed U.S. consumers."

Meanwhile, commodities have been good business for big Wall Street brokerages. Its commodity trades helped keep Goldman Sachs profitable during the credit crisis, said Richard Bove, a banking analyst at Ladenburg Thalmann.

"Business is lousy right now," Bowie said of Goldman Sachs. "Commodities and currencies are clearly the strongest business they have right now."

In the coming months, swap dealers expect to have yet another venue for oil speculation. The CFTC has stated it would not stand in the way of trading in U.S. oil contracts overseas in Dubai. Goldman Sachs and Vitol are among the major investors in this new exchange.


---米ゴールドマン、年末時点の原油価格予想を149ドルに据え置き---
2008年 08月 21日 06:52 JST
http://jp.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idJPJAPAN-33367320080820

 [ロンドン 20日 ロイター] 米ゴールドマン・サックス(GS.N: 株価, 企業情報, レポート)は、原油価格が年末までに1バレル=149ドルまで上昇するとの見通しを維持した。また、強いドルよりも強いファンダメンタルズが原油価格に重要な要因と述べた。
 19日付リサーチノートが20日公表された。
 同社のエネルギーチームは「ドルと原油価格の最近の相関関係は明確だが、これらの資産は様々な要因で動く」と指摘した。その上で「長期的には、原油価格と米ドルの相関関係は非常に限定的だ」と述べた。
 短期的に原油市場を支える要因として、経済協力開発機構(OECD)加盟国の原油在庫が限定的なことや米原油需要が回復する可能性のほか、7月の中国原油需要が前年比で約10%増加したことや石油輸出国機構(OPEC)非加盟国の産油減などを挙げた。
 ゴールドマンのアナリスト、アージュン・マーティ氏は5月、世界需要の高まりと供給ひっ迫から、原油価格が2009年末までに150─200ドルに上昇する可能性があるとの見方を示していた。


---[噂]Vitol---
Wikipedia This page was last modified on 21 August 2008, at 17:37
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitol

The Vitol Group, founded in 1966, along with Glencore and Gunvor in 1997, is one of the world's top 3 crude traders. The headquarters of Vitol are in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Geneva, Switzerland.

External links
* Official Site
http://www.vitol.com/

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