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corner

corner, securing of all or nearly all the supply of any commodity or stock so that its buyers are forced to pay exorbitant prices. Corners may be planned deliberately or may be brought about unintentionally, as through a fight for controlling interest in a corporation's stock. In the first type the operator acquires control of the particular commodity or shares and then induces other operators to promise to sell the commodity or stock by raising the market price to an unusually high level. The cornerer purchases such promises to sell. When the cornerer thinks he can make the biggest profit, he withdraws all his shares from the market, and those who have promised to sell find themselves "cornered"; that is, they have to buy stock from the cornerer at his own price to fulfill their contracts. The cornerer sets the price just low enough to keep the dealers from repudiating their contracts. To be successful, cornerers must have enough money to buy the necessary amount of shares or commodity. The Bible describes Joseph's corner of the grain in Egypt. A famous deliberate corner was Jim Fisk's and Jay Gould's corner of the U.S. gold supply in 1869; the move was frustrated when the federal government placed its own gold supply on sale. A notable illustration of the unintentional corner was that on the stock of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1901. Deliberate corners and other forms of price manipulation on the various stock and commodity exchanges are now illegal in the United States. The Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Dept. of Agriculture seek to prevent corners.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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