Man in a "drunken blackout" bought 69 percent of the global market in oil futures

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51 Responses to “Man in a "drunken blackout" bought 69 percent of the global market in oil futures”

  1.  I’m surprised at the 7 million figure.  That’s 69% of the global market when daily oil production is more than 80 million?

    Is he buying something that is unwanted by anyone else and therefor is on “the global market”?

  2. FoolishOwl says:

    Huzzah for capitalism, the most rational system for making economic decisions!

    • James Alford says:

      Do you have a better one?

      • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

         I hear a chicken pecking at stocks can do better than most brokers.

        • Brainspore says:

          Chicken Stock is also a critical ingredient in many soups.

          • mortdieu says:

            If you only turn the under-performing chickens into stock, then not only do you get delicious soup, but the surviving chickens get increasingly good at predicting the stock market.

          • DeargDoom says:

            Well you would certainly generate a convincing illusion that you had superior pecking chicken stock brokers but picking the next ingredient of your superior chicken stock would actually be a random process.

      • ZikZak says:

        You know the status quo is in trouble when the best argument it can muster to justify its failings is “Well, you got a better idea?”

        And btw, yes.

      • Boundegar says:

        Part of the original argument for capitalism was a large number of independent self-interested actors, whose average behavior would approach market efficiency.  Adam Smith never envisioned one bourbon-soaked trader with control over 69% of the market for anything, let alone oil  Smith himself argued that monopolies distort markets.  So really, this isn’t classic capitalism.  I’m not sure what the word for this is.

        • Kludgegrrl says:

           I like “Nth-stage capitalism.”  I’m not sure where I heard it, but it’s got a good ring to it.

          The reality, of course, is whatever your feelings may be about the current system, it is not what anyone imagined in the 18th or 19th centuries when the concept was forged. 

      • Brad Bell says:

        When people criticise ‘capitalism,’ you can guess 99% of the time they are referring to the fundamentalist, deregulated, idealistic version called Neoliberalism. Also variously referred to as Reaganomics, Trickle-down Economics, Chicago School, Jungle Capitalism, Voodoo Economics, Supply-side Economics, Thatcherism, Austerity, Wingnut Finance, Magic Thinking… 

        There is a spectrum of capitalism, from crazy, corrupt and dysfunctional – see above – to a more sane, people-oriented version like the Nordic model, for example – which many on the right consider ‘socialism’ because it values people over property. There may develop a new model of digitally-empowered direct democracy that supplants the imperatives of capital with the imperatives of citizens living what they consider good lives. It wouldn’t be called ‘subservient capitalism,’ it would be called neo-democracy. Still a capitalism, but 1000 times better.

    • Lobster says:

       Yeah, clearly this was caused by Capitalism, not drunken stupidity.

      • jetfx says:

        If we had an economic system where only a handful of people were not in control of oil futures market, drunken stupidity wouldn’t be such an issue.

        • zartan says:

          seriously?  what benefit would be gained from having more people involved in the oil futures market?  
          You do realize that the net effect of this trading was essentially nothing except that his firm lost some money.  A temporary overnight blip in a commodity market is irrelevant to the broader economy.  Clearly however there are many people blindly enraged by everything and anything having to do with capitalism and finance and love to jump on any example that sounds like an outrage even if it didn’t mean a thing.

          • wysinwyg says:

            A temporary overnight blip in a commodity market is irrelevant to the broader economy.

            Unless people start explaining rising oil prices as a result of peak oil, in which case speculation in the futures market is the major determinant of prices.

            Will you guys make up your minds already?

          • jetfx says:

            Everyone benefits if there is broader control over something as important as oil prices. And with broader control, no one individual can cause speculative price fluctuations. And this example perfectly illustrates a serious flaw with capitalism, that concentrating control in a few hands can lead to some undesirable outcomes, as a result of personal failings.

          • zartan74 says:

            Really?  We would benefit by ‘broader control’ over oil FUTURES prices?  In what way?

          • wysinwyg says:

            We would benefit by ‘broader control’ over oil FUTURES prices?  In what way?

            Why don’t you explain why we’re better off with futures markets in the control of only a handful of individuals?

      • wysinwyg says:

        The awesomeness of capitalism is predicated on the assumption that human beings are purely self-interested rational agents.  The mere existence of drunken stupidity is enough to shoot that theory down, but if that’s not enough for you there’s mountains of behavioral economics and psychology experiments that demonstrate that human beings are essentially never purely self-interested and nowhere close to rational.

        The idea that the conveniences of modern life were brought to us by Smithian capitalism is pure myth.

        • Jeremy Freelove says:

          Not so much.

          Economic theory presuming rationality and self-interest are merely abstractions to help simplify an extremely complex world into a simpler model that can be used to approximate real world behavior. Empirically, it does this extremely well. The violation of the basic assumptions do not serve to shoot down the basic theories, but represent departures from the norm which can then be modeled on a piecemeal basis. For example, in basic theory, economists assume perfect competition (meaning that no indidual consumer or supplier has the power to dictate prices). Obviously, the perfect competition assumption is violated all the time, so economists then came up with a model based on a monopoly. Once understood, they then filled in the gap with theories about oligarchies. One need not accept rationality as truth in order to accept basic economic theory, it’s just a simplified model. Kinda like how newtonian physics is incomplete without relativity, but it does a damn good job of approximating reality in the orders of magnitude for most practical applications.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Empirically, it does this extremely well.

            Well then supply me with some empirical evidence that it does that extremely well.  Your say so doesn’t really do it for me.

            Obviously, the perfect competition assumption is violated all the time, so economists then came up with a model based on a monopoly.

            Right, the underlying theory is demonstrably incorrect so economists resort to ad hoc elaborations to protect that theory from empirical refutation.  This is exactly how Freudian psychoanalysis, Intelligent Design Creationism, 9/11 truthism, and all other varieties of pseudoscience and religious apologetics maintain coherence despite a distinct lack of empirical support.

          • Jeremy Freelove says:

            I wouldn’t even know where to begin! The basic laws governing supply and demand are well established and can be verified in nearly every known real world example. The traditional downward sloping demand curve representing consumer’s willingness to purchase goods at various price points, the upward sloping supply curve and it’s decreasing willingness to produce goods as price declines. The interactions between the two lines and the resulting equilibrium between them.

            Maybe it would be helpful if you specified what outcomes of the theory you disagree with?

            “Right, the underlying theory is demonstrably incorrect so economists resort to ad hoc elaborations to protect that theory from empirical refutation.” This is the very foundation of modern science, only you twisted up the words to make it sound devious. The scientific method requires hypothesis, testing, and then revisions to the hypothesis; this is exactly what is done in economics. The basics of micro-econ hold up to reality very well and aren’t really disputed, even when rationality is violated. Macro-econ has two main schools of thought which are very contentiously disputed by each opposing side. The matter hasn’t been settled yet, but some day we’ll understand with more certainty based on those “ad hoc elaborations” you deplore.

          • wysinwyg says:

            This is the very foundation of modern science, only you twisted up the words to make it sound devious.

            Actually, no it’s not.  Philosophy of science is a huge interest of mine so I’ve paid a lot of attention to the arguments on all sides here.  “Hypothesis testing” is necessary but not sufficient.  For example, astrology features a lot of hypothesis testing — so why don’t we consider it a science?  It is exactly because failed hypotheses are explained away using ad hoc elaborations of the theory — the elaborations don’t follow from the theory but are “tacked on” after the fact to save it from refutation.  Similarly, the elasticity of demand (just as one example) doesn’t follow from basic economic theory, it has to be written into the theory after the fact to “explain” why real-world events aren’t in agreement with economic theory.  Again, this is the hallmark of pseudoscience.  Explaining what’s wrong with your comparison with Newtonian mechanics would take a few hundred words at least so I’m going to skip that.

            Maybe it would be helpful if you specified what outcomes of the theory you disagree with?

            I don’t disagree with the outcomes because as I’ve already explained the theory is inevitably modified to fit the data.  Postdiction is not an impressive hurdle to get over — Freudianism accomplishes it quite well, accommodating just about any set of facts with the theory, even completely contradictory facts.  Again, this is the hallmark of pseudoscience, not science.  The question is whether economic theory provides a model with enough verisimilitude to make useful predictions…and it doesn’t.  Nassim Taleb points out that most of the DJIA’s current value is the result of just a few high-volume days.  That’s why it’s interesting that you should bring up how economic theory handles “equilibrium” — equilibrium is the boring condition that can be predicted using sheer common sense.  The question is how important equilibrium really is to the market.  And it doesn’t seem to be too important.  The really important events always seem to be completely unforeseen by economists.

            Frankly, I think there’s entirely too much of this “rah rah capitalism” bullshit going on these days and you cheerleaders need a little wind taken out of your sails.  Four years ago there was a major financial crisis that was foreseen only by critics of mainstream economic theory.  That tells me your theory has some serious deficits with regard to predicting important economic events.  Since you don’t “even know where to begin” how about you start with what you think is the greatest predictive success of economic theory.  Comparing to Newtonian mechanics again, what’s the economic equivalent of the discovery of Neptune?

          • Jeremy Freelove says:

            “I don’t disagree with the outcomes because as I’ve already explained the theory is inevitably modified to fit the data.” Again, I fail to understand how that process differs from any other scientific progress. You are basically saying the entire field of economics has been data-mined like a stock algorithm looking at past results and creating spurious correlations to predict the future. In reality, I don’t know of any way to distinguish between a data-mined theory and a sound, scientific theory other than evaluating the underlying logic. The reasoning behind astrology does not make sense to this observer, whereas the economics that I’ve been taught does.

            “The really important events always seem to be completely unforeseen by economists.” There are multiple components to this issue. First, economics do not really provide a crystal ball for all the world’s events. Physics can tell us properties about a meteor’s path and speed towards Earth, but we need direct observation to know when and where one is coming. Similarly, economists can rightly predict that decreases in interest rates will lead to inceased demand for housing loans, but it has a hard time predicting the effects of government actors and things like the effects of securitization which hasn’t been around long enough. Some economists did see the problem coming, but a large problem institutionally was that most people had personal incentives to ignore the coming crash and continue to cash in on the unsustainable short-term gains.

            “Frankly, I think there’s entirely too much of this “rah rah capitalism” bullshit going on these days and you cheerleaders need a little wind taken out of your sails.” You mistake me. I’m not an oblivious cheerleader… there are definite deficiencies in unregulated markets that need institutional reform. On the other hand, I do believe that capitalism is rightly regarded as the main cause of the gain in wealth, techonology, and standard of living improvements that we’ve benefitted from over the past few centuries. Thus far, it’s the only system that’s produced results like this. There are potentially better ways to harness the power of individual incentives, and when I see a better way I’ll be open to it, but until then capitalism is vastly superior to any known alternatives, even if we must endure cyclical boom/bust cycles.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Again, I fail to understand how that process differs from any other scientific progress. You are basically saying the entire field of economics has been data-mined like a stock algorithm looking at past results and creating spurious correlations to predict the future. In reality, I don’t know of any way to distinguish between a data-mined theory and a sound, scientific theory other than evaluating the underlying logic.

            The. you need to do more reading in philosophy of science. The problems with judging a theory by its “underlying logic” have been discussed at length. Kuhn and Lakatos would be good to read on this.

            The reasoning behind astrology does not make sense to this observer, whereas the economics that I’ve been taught does.

            It makes no sense based on your preexisting biases. Astrology doesn’t work — no argument there. But you cannot prove from first principles that it could not have worked. We can only determine that through the scientific method — testing the predictions of astrology against empirical data. Likewise, we cannot determine from first principles whether economic theory is valid — the only way is to compare its predictions against empirical data. That’s where the problem of ad hoc elaborations comes in. Again, read Kuhn and Lakatos on this problem. Incidentally, there are plenty of examples other than astrology so the “underlying logic” critique doesn’t really help you.

            On the other hand, I do believe that capitalism is rightly regarded as the main cause of the gain in wealth, techonology, and standard of living improvements that we’ve benefitted from over the past few centuries.

            I disagree vehemently. First of all, I think of wealth and standard of living as being basically equivalent; second of all, I think these result largely from technological progress rather than any particular economic system, and thirdly technological progress seems to be a result of socialistic collusion between monopolistic corporations and government rather than rigid adherence to the tenets of capitalism. This last bit is based on knowledge of history rather than any theoretical preconception of mine.

            I asked you to provide a startling predictive success of economic theory comparable to the discovery of Neptune and you don’t seem to have responded.

          • Mark Brooks says:

            If you actually believe that economics is not a pseudo-science, see Debunking Economics by Steve Keen.  The so-called “law” of supply and demand isn’t as inviolable as everyone seems to believe.  Furthermore, isn’t it possible that the past century or two of apparent human progress have more to do with the exploitation of the one-time bonanza of 40 cubic miles of cheap oil than any particular economic framework?

      • Ramone says:

        And certainly not BOTH.

  3. John Harris says:

    Don’t you people know anything.  Obama is responsible for making oil prices rise.  Duh.

  4. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    What a crude thing to do.

  5. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    Unfortunately, the only thing about this story that surprises me is that there were no HFT bots to leap in and exhibit truly otherworldy responses to the drunk guy’s aberrant behavior with inhuman speed…

  6. Following an official investigation Perkins admitted to having a drink problem, had his trading license revoked for five years, and was given a fine of £72,000 ($116,878).

    And with a firm slap on the wrist, justice was served.

  7. Scott Croom says:

    Wow, he totally Davillar’d. Though at least he has an excuse, Davliar totally didn’t. He was an idiot.

  8. HubrisSonic says:

    Its funny, I was just in a bar 2 nights ago here in Tokyo and after a good hour or two of pounding the pints, a guy I know says, Markets open! and opens his laptop, signs into his account and starts trading currency futures! I was dumbfounded. 

  9. Now imagine how much damage a few buggy trading scripts can do.

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