A lot of fuss is made about the dangers of speculators in commodity markets. But who is a speculator and who isn’t is based on a definition drawn up in the early part of the last century in the United States. The definition is no longer valid and anybody looking at those reports should be wary of drawing any firm conclusions.

For a start the word “speculator” with negative connotations is applied to pension funds, which invest over the long term to provide retirement income for many people around the world. Hedge funds are normally speculators but if they have hold the physical commodity then they can say they are commercial hedgers. Taking this theme a little further many natural resource companies run their Treasuries as profit making centres, which encourages them to trade the commodities they produce.

The London Metal Exchange has said it won’t go down the route the CFTC has and publish a weekly report detailing speculative long and short positions because there is no clear definition.

The CFTC bowing to popular pressure has continued to provide these weekly reports detailing long and short speculative positions, which ultimately could be misleading and make scapegoats of all investors whatever their ilk.