Weil on Finance: Fixing Gold Prices

Here are links to some of my morning reading.

Good morning, Viewfinders. You know the drill. Here is my breakfast reading. Now it can be yours, too, with a few of my own thoughts sprinkled in.

Wouldn't you like to be on the calls where five banks set the price of gold, too?

We've had the Libor scandal and the foreign-exchange trading scandal, and some other market-rigging scandals in between. And now we've moved on to gold, thanks to Bloomberg News reporters Liam Vaughan, Nicholas Larkin and Suzi Ring, who deliver some precious anecdotes in this article today. One can only imagine the inequities that ensue when you have a system in which five banks every business day meet to set the price of gold in a ritual that dates back almost a century: "The process, during which gold is bought and sold, can take from a few minutes to more than an hour. The participants also can trade the metal and its derivatives on the spot market and exchanges during the calls. Just after the fixing begins, trading erupts in gold derivatives, according to research published in September. Four traders interviewed by Bloomberg News said that's because dealers and their clients are using information from the talks to bet on the outcome." And why wouldn't they? Gold prices have been set this way since 1919, which coincidentally happens to be the year that the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series.

The man who sees market manipulations everywhere

Michael Regan of Bloomberg News has a compelling profile of Eric Scott Hunsader, the founder of market-data provider Nanex LLC, whose reports and trading charts "are helping to drive the public debate about the fundamental fairness of the modern stock market." Hunsader says the market is out of control, and he has become a nemesis of high-frequency traders. Many traders say he's nuts. And they may be correct about that. But he also might be right about a lot of stuff.

The downside of being a U.S. company that gets half of its revenue from China

Qualcomm Inc. said it's under investigation in China for possible violations of the country's antimonopoly law. What this means exactly isn't clear. It could be that Qualcomm ticked off the wrong government official, or maybe it's a response to revelations about the National Security Agency. Who knows? Guilty or not, the chip maker will have to play nice if it wants to avoid a disaster for its business.

The Federal Reserve discovers that traders pay attention to what Ben Bernanke says at his press conferences

How about that? But seriously, this is some cool reading, with charts, from two economists at the New York Fed who decided to look at market movements around the time that the Federal Open Market Committee releases its statements and Bernanke answers questions from journalists. "The stock market moves the most around the release of the FOMC statement, but also moves more than usual around the time of the press conference," write Fernando Duarte and Carlo Rosa. "Because we're looking at very narrow windows of time in which no other relevant economic events or announcements took place, we're confident that we can ascribe the extra volatility to FOMC-related activities."

Can we get politicians and TV pundits to sign these, too?

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of the Boca Raton Synagogue came up with a neat idea when a congregant withdrew her membership after being called nasty names over her political views. He asked each member to sign a civility statement, promising to be respectful in public discourse, according to the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida. "We're not asking people to relinquish what they believe," said Jeff Klein, a congregant who led the committee that drafted the statement. "But demonizing others is not helpful and reflects badly on the institution."

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