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EU Seeks Curbs On Food And Energy Speculators

The European Commission unveiled plans on Dec. 8 to clamp down on speculators in commodities and combat insider trading and manipulation of gas and power markets as it sought to catch up with Washington’s tough regime.

The EU’s financial services chief, Michel Barnier, and its energy commissioner, Guenther Oettinger want traders to disclose buying and selling of stocks, bonds and derivatives, a cap on mega-trades and power for regulators to curb the speculators suspected of driving food and energy prices to record highs in 2008.

“If someone is doing something which affects the market then he or she must be held to account,” Barnier, the EU commissioner in charge of the reform, told journalists. “Hyper-speculation is scandalous.”

Barnier, a former French agriculture minister, proposed the new rules as France continues to push for tighter regulation of the sector, having taken over the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) top global economies.

France, the EU’s biggest grain producer, wants to stem speculation on futures markets designed to help farmers guard against the risks of a poor crop by guaranteeing a payout at a fixed price.

In a parallel move to tackle energy speculators, Oettinger said rules in 2012 would stop power giants withholding energy capacity to force up prices in a market estimated to be worth about 500 billion euros ($660 billion) annually.

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