WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge handed an 11th-hour victory to Wall Street's biggest commodity traders on Friday, knocking back tough new regulations that would have cracked down on speculation in energy, grain and metal markets.
Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia threw out the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission's new position limits rule, and sent the regulation back to the agency for further consideration.
Wilkins ruled that, by law, the CFTC was required to prove that the position limits in commodity markets are necessary to diminish or prevent excessive speculation.
He also ruled that the amendments to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law "do not constitute a clear and unambiguous mandate to set position limits, as the Commission argues."
The ruling is a major victory to traders just two weeks before parts of the new position limits rule were scheduled to go into effect.
The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association brought the suit against the CFTC, arguing that the regulations would force their members to drastically alter their businesses, cost them tens of millions of dollars, and send customers fleeing.
Wall Street has also long argued that regulators have not proven that position limits would curb speculation in markets and prevent disruptive price spikes.
The CFTC and industry groups that brought the suit did not immediately have comment.
The agency passed the position limit rule last year, in a bid to limit the number of contracts traders can hold in 28-commodities, including oil, coffee and gold. (Reporting By Alexandra Alper and Karey Wutkowski; Editing by James Dalgleish)