Monday, 3 October 2011

Trading Places

This is a great film with Eddie Murphy, Dan Ackroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis and Denholm Elliot. With those names on the bill you know you're going to be entertained. Obviously it probably won't appeal to the Dodge Ball/Eurotrip/Freddy Got Fingered demographic as it requires a more highly evolved sense of humour (I say that but I'm a huge fan of Ace Ventura so I'm being a hypocrite... Again...)

The film's plot starts with Duke & Duke, two rich and stuffy brothers who also happen to own a vastly rich futures trading company. They make a bet that they can transform a homeless, penniless criminal yob into a high flying executive while turning a high flying executive into a homeless, penniless criminal yob. This they manage to do with Murphy (he plays Valentine) being ascendant and Ackroyd (who plays Winthorpe) going downwards.

I'll leave you to watch the film if you haven't already, it has some classic scenes not to be missed. One thing that always did confuse me though was how Valentine & Winthorpe turned the tables, eventually they get together and have their own bet involving ruining Duke & Duke as Winthorpe was ruined by them.

It's all about futures trading, here's how it works.

I'm sure it isn't as simple as this and some artistic license was involved, Futures Traders buy and sell commodities without actually owning them. They can buy or sell on the promise that when it comes to providing the goods for sale or purchase, they have the where-with-all to do so, if they don't; they go bust, if they do though; great profits can be made, that is the Futures Contract. The commodity Duke & Duke hoped to make a killing on is Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice (FCOJ) and they have an ace up their sleeve in that they know the results of the orange crop report, or think they do.

Winthorpe and Valentine get to the report before the Dukes do and doctor it to show the crop is going to be bad due to cold weather. Duke & Duke will buy and keep on buying, the price won't matter because they're going to corner the market in FCOJ, since there would be a shortage (with the poor crop report) when it comes to physically selling it, the price would be sky high; supply and demand.

What actually happened was Winthorpe & Valentine sold FCOJ Futures Contracts while they were priced high (Duke & Duke frantically buying drove the price up as other traders tried to get on the band wagon.) At one point they were selling at $1.45 (remember, they didn't own anything at that point, it's the Futures Market. The cash-changing-hands part comes much later.) Everything pauses for the crop report announcement from the US Government, which is that it was a good crop. Cue mayhem as people try to offload all the FCOJ they bought at $1.45 before the price collapses entirely (remember, supply and demand; if there is a lot of something it's intrinsic value falls.) The price drops to $0.66 (eventually bottoming out at $0.22,) meanwhile Winthorpe & Valentine buy futures frantically while everyone else sells sells sells because FCOJ Futures are so hugely over valued.

For every future unit Winthorpe & Valentine had previously sold at $1.45, they purchase a matching amount for only $0.22, resulting in a profit of over $1.20 per unit.

It's all virtual money until the bell rings and trading closes, other traders have to physically pay for the FCOJ Contracts that Winthorpe & Valentine sold at $1.45 then physically sell them back at $0.22. Duke & Duke did most of the buying and none of the selling so got landed with thousands of FCOJ Futures Contracts they bought for $1.45 but could only sell for $0.22!

It's a natty way to make money and topically, one of the main reasons your fuel bills are so high. Traders gambling on future supplies of Oil & Gas, if a Trader in Futures Contracts buys high because they think production will be low but production turns out to be high, they'd lose money, well, they might except they just pass the loss onto the buyer (your utility company or petrol station chain) who in turn pass it on to you.

Its not just Oil & Gas either, everything  is traded on the futures market, from food stuffs (grain, pork bellies and beef) to chemicals and precious metals. If the traders gamble and lose, so do we all. If on the other hand they win, they get rich and we still pay the going rate, the money they make does not pass on to us in the shape of savings. Socialising the loss but not the profit.

Not so natty now is it, although it's still a good film.


  1. Thanks for that explanation.

    It really is unsavoury though, isn't it?

  2. Aye, its also totally counter intuitive. I wrote that and understood what I meant at the time, but reading it back I'm thinking eh!?!

    But it is the reason why fuel bills are so high, they're buying oil & gas on the futures markets years in advance.

    Bill payers are funding the speculator's poor judgement on the value of oil and gas two years hence.

    Its daft.


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?