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Buzz in Chicago:  Speculators Are Part of the Market

As oil hit a staggering high of $142 a barrel, and stocks flirt with a bear market, CNBC visited the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to discuss the overall economic picture and the state of U.S. business.

The Economic Puzzle

"The pieces of the puzzle that were negative still remain negative ... The only thing I can think that is more positive than it was in March is the dollar right now."

Ben Lichtenstein, TradersAudio.com President

Speculators are Part of the Market

"We certainly wouldn't support artificially limiting participation in the free market. That's what we're all about here is free markets and markets that actually serve a vital economic function of price discovery. And as I said, those functions are working — the market is discovering the price of these commodities. You can say you don't like it, but that's what these markets are all about."

— Craig Donohue, CME Group CEO

Insurance Outlook

"Auto pricing is very competitive, and it's an attractive time for people to be buying insurance. Prices have come down over the last couple of years, and that's because auto frequency has come down, so people aren't getting in as many accidents. Homeowners is a different story, and that's because there are a lot more hurricanes and so the cost of that has gone up."

— Thomas Wilson, Allstate Chairman, President and CEO

Conservation is Coming

"I think the American people and the rest of the world will cut the use of oil in the next 12 months to levels people never thought were possible."

Sam Zell, Equity Group Investments Chairman

The Business of Burgers

"I think right now customers are responding to value ... The real key is to have value not only at the value menu stage, but also all the way up and down."

— Donald Thompson, McDonald's USA CEO