Trader bids for immortality

The man who bid oil above $100 a barrel for the first time may have made a loss – but he might also have won himself a place in history.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

If you’re a trader, finding immortality seems like a forlorn hope. The very nature of your job means your success is ephemeral, your gains temporary, your reputation short-lived. In fact, if you want to earn everlasting renown, your best bet is probably to do a Nick Leeson, and contrive to topple your entire institution with a series of ill-judged bets. And that doesn’t tend to be a good career move.

So we were delighted to hear about the oil trader in New York yesterday who was apparently single-handedly responsible for bidding the price of a barrel of crude oil above the $100 mark, for the first time ever. The mystery man – named by the FT as local independent Richard Arens, owner of brokerage ABS – apparently paid a premium of almost 50c to buy just 1000 barrels of oil (the smallest amount possible) and then immediately sold them on for a loss of about $600.

There are presumably just two possible explanations for this. One, he’s a really rubbish trader. Or two, that he wanted the renown of being the first trader ever to buy oil at $100 a barrel – and earn himself a little certificate on the wall to prove it. Not to mention gallons of free publicity from gullible publications like, um, ours.

Naturally the BBC was far more astute – or sniffy, depending on your point of view – opining that the (unnamed) trader was ‘seeking bragging rights and a minute of fame’. Ex-trader Stephen Schork told the Today programme: ‘He paid $600 for the right to tell his grandchildren that he was the first in the world to buy $100 oil.’

But here at MT, with our love of enterprise and innovation, we can’t help but admire Arens’ chutzpah. After all, surely every trader dreams of having a little piece of history on their wall? Perhaps Schork is just miffed that he didn’t think of the idea first...

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