Monday, September 12, 2011

Taulli, All About Commodities

Over the past couple of years a lot has been written about commodities, as usually happens in hot markets. All About Commodities by Tom Taulli, the most recent addition to McGraw-Hill’s All About series (2011), is a bit late to the party, but even so a good primer is always valuable for the uninitiated.

Taulli’s book covers a wide swath of topics—for starters, fundamental and technical analysis, order types, contract specifications, U.S. and global exchanges, and options on futures. More interesting are the chapters on the commodities themselves. Little of that dry, mechanical prose you find in most surveys of commodities.

The author shares tidbits that might captivate a cocktail party audience (as long as it’s not a Wall Street crowd) for a couple of minutes. For example, do you think those folks standing around drinks in hand know that Keynes called gold the “barbarous relic”? Or that the spot price of gold is “based on the decisions of five committee members of the London Gold Market” who meet twice a day to set the price, a process known as the London Gold Fixing which has been in place since September 1919?

By the way, a sidenote. According to the Business Insider (September 8), the Pan Asia Gold Exchange (PAGE), owned and operated by the Chinese government, will open in the next couple of months. It is anticipated that PAGE “could pose a challenge to the near monopoly on gold price discovery currently held by the members of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) that include many large banks.”

Coffee drinkers might be interested to know that “the origins of coffee go back to the ninth century. The story is that in Ethiopia a goat herder saw that his herd got more energy when eating red berries from a tree. The town was called Kaffa, which became the name for coffee.” (p. 143)

First and foremost, though, the book is an introduction to the vast world of commodities and how the individual investor can profit from it. It’s an easy, enjoyable way to start out.

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