Buy! Sell! Run! – Bill Powell

From Time Asia:

To the club of hapless traders who have squandered fortunes in global commodities markets”think Nick Leeson, who bankrupted 232-year-old Barings Bank in 1995, or the Sumitomo Metals trader who blew $1.8 billion in 1996″add a new member: of Beijing’s State Reserve Bureau (SRB), whose wrong-way bet on prices may cost the Chinese government tens of millions of dollars.

According to copper traders who dealt with him routinely over the past several years, Liu had taken “short” positions in copper in recent months”borrowing the industrial metal at current prices to sell to others, hoping the price would fall before he was due to replace what he had borrowed. Traders say he built up a huge position, shorting some 100,000 to 200,000 tons of the metal. But because copper prices have soared lately, Liu and the SRB”a secretive state agency responsible for buying strategic commodities”may have to absorb big losses, possibly up to $100 million, according to traders.

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