When most people think of the drama of global finance, they think of stocks and bonds, venture capital, high-tech IPOs, and complex mortgagebacked securities. But commodities? Crude oil and soybeans? Copper and wheat? What could be more boring?
That’s exactly what the elite commodity traders want you to think. They don’t seek the media spotlight. They don’t want to be as famous as Warren Buffett or Bill Gross. Their astonishing wealth was created in near-total obscurity, because they dwelled either in closely held private companies or deep within large banks and corporations, where commodity profits and losses weren’t broken out.
But if the individual participants in the great commodities boom of the 2000s went unnoticed, their impact did not. Over several years the size of the market exploded, and so did prices for raw materials—raising serious questions about whether the big traders were intentionally jacking up the cost of gasoline, food, and other essentials bought by ordinary people around the world. What was really driving all those price spikes?