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On the Limits to Speculation in Centralized versus Decentralized Market Regimes

Speculation creates an adverse selection cost for utility traders, who will choose not to trade if this cost exceeds the benefits of using the asset market. However, if they do not participate, the market collapses, since private information alone is not sufficient to create a motive for trade. Therefore, there is a limit to the amount of speculative transactions that a given market can support. We compare this limit in decentralized versus centralized market regimes, finding that the centralized regime is more prone to speculation than the decentralized one: the transaction fees charged by an intermediary diminish the individual return to information, so that for a fixed value of trading, more speculative transactions can be supported. The analysis also suggests a reason for the existence of intermediaries in financial markets.