Speculators and Speculation by Steve Gillman

Speculators get a bad rap. Speculation in stocks, currecies and commodities futures is a necessary part of our economy. Many people have the idea that there is no added value in people “gambling” on commodities prices, for example. The truth is, most people just don’t understand of the role of speculators and speculation.

The Truth About ‘Speculation’

Speculative trading is crucial to a modern economy. Let’s use corn for an example. A farmer can plant his corn, and then see the price drop so low by harvest time that he loses his investment, and possibly goes bankrupt. How can he prevent this?

By selling some of his future production now, at a set price, he can plan ahead safely. The contracts he creates and sells will go up and down with the price of corn, but the risk is all in the hands of the speculators who buy them. They profit by re-selling them if the price goes up, and they lose money if it goes down. Our farmer, though, has his price, and can plan his business now.

Now, on the other side, a cereal company needs predictability in the prices of their basic commodities, in order to plan future production. They can’t hire new employees and buy new equipment, only to see the price of corn triple, making consumers unwilling to buy their expensive corn flakes. Buy a contract for future delivery at a set price, and they can plan, and again, the speculators take on the risk. They sell a contract, planning to buy the corn necessary for delivery. They make money if the price drops, and lose if it goes up, because they have to deliver at a set price.

Not just farmers, but all industries based on basic commodities would go through terrible swings in fortune if it weren’t for these “gamblers,” who take on the risk. Without them, there would be more bankruptcies, and more dramatic swings in consumer prices. In all markets with speculation, speculators provide the liquidity and ability to plan ahead that is needed.

New Ideas In Speculation

Maybe we need more speculation, not less. Wouldn’t it be nice if businesses and even individuals could guarantee that gas for their cars would be near the same price next year? Speculators could provide that guarantee, and some businesses would love that kind of predictability.

You buy a contract, for example, to get your next 1000 gallons of gas at $2.20 per gallon. You put down a small deposit, and pay as you go, but you know that the next 1000 gallons will be $2,200, guaranteed.

A speculators role is to back the other side of the contract (to sell it). He is the one guaranteeing your price, so if the average price for the next 1000 gallons is $1.80, you still pay $2,200 in the end, but his cost is $1,800, so he makes $400 on the contract. Now if the price averages $3.30, he pays $3,300. You still pay $2,200, so he gambled and lost $1,100.

Speculators, like most gamblers, will probably bet on almost anything. We need to find more ways for them to take on our risks. Just imagine the many contracts could be invented, based on speculation.

About The Author

Steve Gillman has been exploring new ideas for decades. Visit his site for invention ideas, business ideas, story ideas, political and economic theories, deep thoughts, and more. Get a free gift too: http://www.999ideas.com.