Sweet or Sour?

Bloomberg has an investing story today that doesn’t tell readers a critical piece of information about the motives of its source.

It writes that Michael Coleman, a Singapore-based hedge fund manager says the price of sugar “may climb” 80 percent due to a shortfall in supply that’s already seen prices soar 88 percent so far this year.

But Bloomberg doesn’t tell readers whether Coleman is long (has his own bets on) sugar or not. Nor does it say whether other sugar boosters in the story, investor Jim Rogers and Rabobank Groep NV, are high on their own supply, so to speak. That’s key information for readers to be able to weigh the credibility of these sources.

Some guy yapping about Stock X or Commodity Y’s price doing this or that over the next few months is always suspect—nobody can really put numbers on these things. But I’d like to know whether he’s talking his own book—Wall Street lingo for saying positive things about an investment you just so happen to hold.

If you think about it you’ve got to assume Coleman is long sugar. Why wouldn’t he be if he thinks it’s going to nearly double in price? But this is information that should be disclosed to readers up high in the story. Most Bloomberg subscribers are sophisticated investors, but this story is given prominent display on its free website.

And fter all, it does report later on that Coleman is long “corn versus wheat.”

Bloomberg also reports that Coleman’s hedge fund’s return is zero so far this year, but gives no context as to how that compares to his competitors or hedge funds in general. It should have.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.