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A speculative bubble in commodity futures prices? Cross-sectional evidence

  • Dwight R. Sanders
  • Scott H. Irwin

Recent accusations against speculators in general and long-only commodity index funds in particular include: increasing market volatility, distorting historical price relationships, and fueling a rapid increase and decrease in the level of commodity prices. Some researchers have argued that these market participants-through their impact on market prices-may have inadvertently prevented the efficient distribution of food aid to deserving groups. Certainly, this result-if substantiated-would counter the classical argument that speculators make prices more efficient and thus improve the economic efficiency of the food marketing system. Given the very important policy implications, it is crucial to develop a more thorough understanding of long-only index funds and their potential market impact. Here, we review the criticisms (and rebuttals) levied against (and for) commodity index funds in recent U.S. Congressional testimonies. Then, additional empirical evidence is added regarding cross-sectional market returns and the relative levels of long-only index fund participation in 12 commodity futures markets. The empirical results provide scant evidence that long-only index funds impact returns across commodity futures markets. Copyright (c) 2010 International Association of Agricultural Economists.

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Article provided by International Association of Agricultural Economists in its journal Agricultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 41 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 25-32

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Handle: RePEc:bla:agecon:v:41:y:2010:i:1:p:25-32
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  1. Robles, Miguel & Torero, Maximo & von Braun, Joachim, 2009. "When speculation matters:," Issue briefs 57, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  2. Working, Holbrook, 1960. "Speculation on Hedging Markets," Food Research Institute Studies, Stanford University, Food Research Institute, issue 02, May.
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