Panel offers new commodities rules

WASHINGTON — Trading in commodities futures would be capped under a federal rule proposed Tuesday, an effort to clamp down on speculative trades that can drive up food and gas prices.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission voted 3 to 1 to send the revised proposal out for public comment, its second attempt at a rule that was struck down last year by a federal court. The rule was required under the 2010 financial overhaul law.


The latest proposal restricts trading volume of futures contracts for 28 commodities, from corn and oil to metals and frozen orange juice. Exemptions for financial firms are narrower than in the previous rule but still allow firms to promote futures trading by their commercial customers to hedge against price swings, CFTC officials said.

The CFTC could finalize the rule sometime after the 60-day comment period.

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The curbs are aimed at financial firms and others that seek to profit from swings in commodity prices. The goal is to limit a single firm from controlling too much of the market and protect consumers from unusual price swings.

Commissioner Bart Chilton, who unexpectedly announced he’d be leaving the commission, said the proposal would be ‘‘unassailable in court, good for markets, and good for consumers.’’

Chilton was an outspoken regulator whose colorful commentary on financial risk taking positioned him as a fierce critic of the industry he helped oversee.


Chilton’s knack for blending arcane financial minutiae with poetic inflections and music lyrics helped him capture the day’s vote on the new rules.

“I’m reminded of the old Etta James song, ‘At Last,’” said Chilton. “At last, we’ve got this rule here.”

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