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Investopedia says:

The following are two types of futures traders:

  • hedgers

  • speculators

An example of a hedger would be an airline buying oil futures to guard against potential rising prices. An example of a speculator would be someone who is just guessing the price direction and has no intention of actually buying the product. According to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the majority of futures trading is done by speculators as less than 3% of transactions actually result in the purchaser of a futures contract taking possession of the commodity being traded.

Since most of the future contracts are never settled physically (therefore, no actual trades occour), why would the rest (actual buyers and sellers) even agree to participate in this speculative price action game?

Why futures contract price of commodity is considered to be some kind of approximant of commodity price if all it is is ~97% speculation of traders who never bought/sold, never does and never will be involved in the commodity trade?

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Although, I think this question is a bit off-topic for a Quant S.E., I'll try to answer it with my background sitting at a commodities desk at a bank.

Since most of the future contracts are never settled physically (therefore, no actual trades occour), why would the rest (actual buyers and sellers) even agree to participate in this speculative price action game?

What you are confusing here is CME/CFTC's classification term of "speculator" and speculation. "Hedgers" as classified by CME above are still participating in price speculation. By coming into the paper market to hedge, they are expressing their opinion about the physical they own. "Hedgers" also don't settle their paper derivative hedge most often. As in, they don't take delivery of the CME specified physical asset that the futures contract is linked to. Most "hedgers" have a slightly different grade / type of commodity than the listed contract, and they often just use it as a proxy hedge that's most liquid out there (standardized futures contracts traded on exchanges like CME).

Why futures contract price of commodity is considered to be some kind of approximant of commodity price if all it is is ~97% speculation of traders who never bought/sold, never does and never will be involved in the commodity trade?

Unclear what you mean by "approximant of commodity price" but I think this question perhaps is just a question of "what is forwards/futures?"

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You don't have to have a large percentage of the participants able to take physical delivery, just a small percentage. For every contract there are plenty of people who will take it in to inventory or sell out of it if the spread between the spot and future is wide enough.

So there's a band that's created. For example, if Henry Hub Gas is 2.9 and the future is 2.91, most physicals traders wouldn't find it worth it to trade the arb. But, when it gets to 3.05 vs 2.9, then you would have people trading it.

I think the right way to look at is that the spot and future will almost never be perfectly aligned, but they will trade in a band.

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why would the rest (actual buyers and sellers) even agree to participate in this speculative price action game?

I would say because market liquidity increases thanks to speculators. Liquidity has benefits for both types of players by decreasing transactions costs and by smoothing price changes. In your example, the airline company may wish to exit its contract for risk management reasons and it will be easier if the market is liquid.

Edit : See also The impact of speculative trading in commodity markets - – a review of the evidence (note it is probably not impartial...)

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  • $\begingroup$ Liquidity of what? Derivative or the underlying commodity? I don't see how speculators increase liquidity of the commodity, only the liquidity of future contracts which won't be settled in a physical form most of the time anyways. So in my eyes, the actual liquidity is not increased, but the cost paid for ths game is speculative price action, rather then the real one (in terms of supply and demand or commodity, not the future contract) $\endgroup$ – Kristijonas Lukas Bukauskas Jan 15 '16 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ For the spot market, there is no consensus and it is a theoritical/political debate. You can find interesting informations here :foa.co.uk/admin/tiny_mce/jscripts/tiny_mce/plugins/filemanager/… $\endgroup$ – Malick Jan 15 '16 at 19:01

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