The $100 Oil Trade: Was Arens the Seller?

On Thursday, it seemed that the single $100 oil trade was a bit of a prank: Nymex trader Richard Arens basically spent $600 of his own money in order to be the person who first hit that mark.

Now, however, the New York Post’s Roberta Yafie reports that it’s the other way around: Richard Arens is the guy who sold the barrel of $100 oil, not the guy who bought it. The buyer, she says, is unknown, although "one Nymex source told The Post the buyer was commodities conglomerate Cargill". Insofar as Arens was involved in the trade heard round the world, he seems to have made money on it: "the trade cost the investor $600 and made Arens a profit of $600," says Yafie.

I’m not sure I buy it, since Cargill has some of the most sophisticated commodities traders in the world, and I doubt they’d buy a single contract from a "local" like Arens. If anything, I’d be more inclined to believe the opposite: that it was Cargill which sold Arens the $100 barrel.

But at least Yafie has done us the favor of reminding us all that any trade has two counterparties, which means that there are at least two traders – not just one – who can claim to have been part of this bargain. If Arens is one of them, he managed to make history and headlines no matter which side of the trade he was on.

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