COMMODITIES: The Great Potato Panic

For weeks, officials at Manhattan's New York Mercantile Exchange had been watching what looked like shenanigans in the trading of potato futures. Prices of Maine potatoes slated for late May delivery were bouncing up and down, apparently without much regard to actual crop prospects. To nip attempts at price manipulation, the exchange boosted its margin requirements on Maine potato futures from $240 per 450-bag contract to $800 for traders who wanted to speculate in potatoes. But the margin boost did little good. Last fortnight, when delivery time for May potatoes arrived, the Mercantile Exchange found itself in the worst...

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