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From his lips to national media

Big news outlets seek out a Tampa trader on a wealth of key market issues, but here, he's practically anonymous."The national press follows us closely, and the fine folks in Tampa don't know who we are,'' Cordier jokes.

By JAMES THORNER
Published June 16, 2006


From his perch on the 23rd story of Tampa's SunTrust Financial Center, James Cordier is adept at the two-minute drill.

The phone rings. It's a financial news service journalist from Bloomberg, Reuters or Dow Jones.

What's his opinion of crude oil prices in light of an Iranian mullah's latest rant? How badly will frost nip Brazil's coffee harvest? Are cocoa beans a good investment if workers strike in the Ivory Coast?

Time is money. The ticker is ticking. Cordier flings figures and fundamentals. The call rarely lasts more than a couple of minutes. Click.

A trader in energy, metals and soft commodities such as cocoa, coffee and sugar, Cordier, 44, can move mountains of dollars through his media commentary. He's president of Liberty Trading Group in Tampa.

Do a Google search for "James Cordier" and "Liberty Trading." The result: more than 800 hits. He's a trusted source for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Barron's and USA Today.

But this mammoth of the broadsheets is a mere mouse in his own back yard. The commodities broker is an unknown commodity close to home.

"The national press follows us closely, and the fine folks in Tampa don't know who we are,'' Cordier jokes.

Take a gander at Cordier's appearances this week. On Thursday, he did a spot for Bloomberg Radio. Wednesday he appeared live on Bloomberg TV. CNBC interviewed him live on Tuesday. All the while, reporters pick his brain over the phone. Reuters summoned the Oracle of Tampa on Thursday for his view on orange juice and sugar.

Why the demand? Cordier prides himself on knowing when to buck conventional wisdom. When gold soared to $725 an ounce on May 11 - and some commentators screeched "the sky's the limit" - Cordier was downbeat. Gold closed below $570 on Thursday.

Same thing with oil prices. By Cordier's reasoning, the alarmist could have it wrong. If the Federal Reserve succeeds as planned in slowing the economy with interest rate hikes, demand for petroleum products will dip. Could we see a return to $50 crude in the near future?

"Hype is just that. It's people who don't know much about the market and are just following the herd," Cordier says of Me-too-ism afflicting financial analysts on topics like commodities, housing and the stock market.

Seven years ago, after working for two decades as a trader in places like Milwaukee and St. Petersburg, Cordier founded Liberty Trading. The plate glass of his high-rise office overlooks the Port of Tampa and Channelside.

He and business colleague Michael Gross wrote a book titled The Complete Guide to Option Selling.

But his biggest hobby is working the media. It started 15 years ago when a major newspaper discovered him. Since then he's been Mr. Quotable.

"The New York Times called and the phone just kept ringing," he says.

[Last modified June 16, 2006, 07:33:33]


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