The program trading stategies that have raised the ire of so many small investors' brokers are not likely to fade away. So says futures regulator Wendy Gramm, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Many market observers have blamed those trading strategies, designed to profit from price differences in the stock and futures markets for the October stock market crash.
Gramm, however, said the problems caused by the stock index futures contracts she regulates have been exaggerated greatly.
"They (rading strategies) are valuable and useful and not a culprit per se," said Gramm, who pointed out that stocks plunged worldwide, including places without futures markets.
But critics continue to say the violence of the fall was caused by trades involving stock index contracts _ publicly traded agreements representing the future price of widely followed stock indicators such as the Standard & Poor's index of 500 stocks.
Gramm said she supports trading strategies using futures contracts to lock in a stock price, ensuring a certain profit.
During the stock market crash, a lot of hedging stategies _ called portfolio insurance _ didn't provide the protection paid for by major pension funds and other traders.
Gramm said those institutions were taught a lesson learned long ago by traders in more traditional farm futures: You can't buy a good insurance policy after the market has been bashed by the bad news.
"It's like orange juice; after there's a freeze in Florida, it's too late to hedge against a price rise," Gramm said.
There were some problems revealed by the crash, she said, adding, however, they were dealt with by changes already made in the stock and futures markets.
Those changes included:
_ Adding circuit breakers, or agreements to interrupt trading in futures and stocks during enormous price declines.
_ Information sharing among the exchanges about large positions.