This paper investigates the susceptibility of futures markets to price manipulation in a two-period model with asymmetric information and “cash settlement” futures contracts. Without “physical delivery,” strategies based on “corners” or “squeezes” are infeasible. However, uninformed investors still earn positive expected profits by establishing a futures position and then trading in the spot market to manipulate the spot price used to compute the cash settlement at delivery. We also show that as the number of manipulators grows, profits from manipulation fall to zero. However, even in the limit, manipulation still has a nontrivial impact on market liquidity. More broadly, we interpret manipulation as a form of endogenous “noise trading” which can arise in multiperiod security markets.
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