Thursday, September 10, 2009

CFTC Kills Off DXO

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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DXO no longer exists. Deutsche Bank announced on September 1st that it would redeem all shares after the market closed on September 9th. DXO was started in June 2008 and had $600 million in assets. It was a investment vehicle that offered hundreds of thousands of small investors a leveraged oil play. Many members of the New York Investing meetup bought it in March and sold it in June of this year and made a 165% profit on this trade. We will not be able to do so again in the future.

The CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission) has been holding hearings this summer to investigate 'speculation' in the oil market. It has specifically targeted ETFs and ETNs in this regard. Deutsche Bank did not directly mention the CFTC in its announcement but said this redemption is the result of “limitations imposed by the exchange” causing a “regulatory event”. How much behind the scenes pressure was put on Deutsche Bank is not known. Deutsche Bank is a holder of U.S. mortgage debt. While it doesn't seem to be on the list of TARP recipients, it did receive approximately $11.8 billion from AIG as a result of the government's nationalization of the company. It can also be assumed that Deutsche Bank benefits from other Fed programs that take junky assets off bank's books and replaces them with higher quality bonds. When the government 'owns you', you are likely to give it what it wants.

It is interesting that the CFTC is concentrating its efforts on 'speculation' from investment entities that are used by small investors. Like the SEC, it hears no evil and sees no evil when it comes to the large players. For years there have been two large banks that have held large short positions in Silver futures (and Deutsche Bank may be one of those banks). It took years of complaints before the CFTC agreed to investigate, just as the SEC continually ignored complaints about Bernie Madoff and his obvious $65 billion Ponzi scheme. So far, the CFTC has found nothing, just as the SEC never at any point found any wrongdoing on Madoff's part (his Ponzi scheme collapsed on its own accord). If the federal government wanted to limit speculation in the commodities market it could easily have done so, by forcing Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to close down their commodity trading operations. Federal law prohibits banks from speculating in commodities and both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley became banks in 2008. The government gave both firms a special five-year dispensation however. If you are a big player, you don't have to worry about 'the rules'.

The government's action in the energy market should be seen for what it is - an attempt at imposing price controls on oil and gas. Price controls never work and almost always lead to shortages and much higher prices. ETFs will not disappear either as a result of the CFTC's action, but will turn into closed-end funds. There will be an attempt to launch more of them. Each one will be smaller, less liquid and have a much higher expense ratio. More will move to overseas markets that are less restrictive. While it is just oil and gas this summer, expect other markets (particularly agricultural) to be affected in the future.

NEXT: The Cash From Clunk-Heads Program

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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