Monday, March 07, 2011

War of the Silver Kings

The same financial speculators who drove up the price of food leading to North African revolutions are now playing with the price of oil. It's all just a game to them, a child's game being played by childish adults. For example:

Hunt Silver Play
In the 1970's two sons of oil billionaire H. L. Hunt (Bunker and Herbert) were middle-aged failures who had inherited some $13 billion of daddy's fortune. They decided to make their own fortunes by cornering the market for silver.

In the early 1970's, at $2/oz, they began buying silver bullion by the ton. The price doubled and redoubled. Every time the price when up they bought more. They bought bullion and futures contracts. As the price of silver rose still further these two aged children began borrowing against their vast Texas oil wealth to buy more and more silver.

The price reached $20/oz, then $30/oz, then $40/oz, then peaking at $50/oz. The Hunt boys had tied up so much silver there wasn't enough left circulating in the marketplace for the many commercial businesses that needed the metal. In 1980, the Commodities Exchange set new rules for margin purchases. Silver started falling to its natural price level, quickly.

The Hunt boys were heavily leveraged and had bought hundreds of millions of dollars of silver futures at the inflated prices. The boys were caught in a margin squeeze so tight the Feds had to negotiate a bank bailout for them. By 1989, Bunker Hunt was worth less than $10 million and he owed $90 million to the IRS which was garnishing his income from daddy's trust fund. Still only a man-child, Bunker Hunt spent his days playing with his race horses.

See also:

Extra Credit: The 1957 first episode of the TV show Maverick was called "War of the Silver Kings."

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