Unintended Consequences Of The CFTC 'Witch-Hunt'

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, suddenly suspicious of speculators, holds another set of hearings on energy markets Wednesday. Ideas under discussion include imposing position limits on commodity tracking funds and higher margin requirements on over-the-counter energy trades.

If implemented, be prepared for some unexpected consequences. If commodity trackers are curbed, money will exit, and demand for the energy futures they buy will fall. Forward oil prices would likely fall. It is hard to say by how much since, as economist Phil Verleger has demonstrated, there has been little correlation between flows into and out of tracker funds, and oil price movements in the period beginning January 2006.