The anticipated moment is finally here: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has unveiled its proposed rules on position limits. The impact on exchange traded funds (ETFs) may be much ado about nothing, though.
The CFTC’s goal was clamping down on the nearly-$600 trillion derivatives market. Although no one has ever found a conclusive link, commodity speculation has been blamed in the oil price run-up of 2008.
The speculator market is even larger today, having grown to 15%, up from 10% in 2008.
With that in mind, the CFTC is seeking to limit the number of futures or swaps any speculator can own, and this is likely to include ETFs. But is there cause for worry?
Probably not so much – that the CFTC was looking at this issue hasn’t exactly been a secret, so ETF providers have had plenty of time to prepare for whatever proposal would ultimately be handed down. [Commodity ETFs: What You Should Know.]
Some ETFs already have position limits as a result of past actions by the CFTC. For example, PowerShares DB Agriculture (NYSEArca: DBA) used to consist of futures contracts on just four commodities: wheat, sugar, soybeans and corn. These days, it holds far more than that, including cocoa and coffee.
If these proposals get implemented next year alongside the Dodd-Frank Financial Overhaul bill, it’s likely that we’ll see more changes in agriculture, metals and energy ETFs that use futures contracts or swaps to achieve their positions.
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The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.