Who are these offensive souls? Well, they often don’t fit the stereotype of sleazy high rollers: Many manage pension funds or university and foundation endowments.
… [Commodity investors] generally don’t buy the physical goods, whether oil or corn. Instead, they trade “futures contracts,” which are bets on future prices in, say, six months. For every trader betting on higher prices, another is betting on lower prices. These trades are matched. In the stock market, all investors (buyers and sellers) can profit in a rising market, and all can lose in a falling market. In futures markets, one trader’s gain is another’s loss.
Futures contracts enable commercial consumers and producers of commodities to hedge. Airlines can lock in fuel prices by buying oil futures; farmers can lock in selling prices for their grain by selling grain futures. The markets work because numerous financial players — “speculators” in it for the money — can take the other side of hedgers’ trades.
Samuelson’s Conclusion: “If politicians wish to point fingers of blame, they should start with themselves.”