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Backwardation in Oil Futures Markets: Theory and Empirical Evidence

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  • Litzenberger, Robert H
  • Rabinowitz, Nir

Abstract

Oil futures prices are often below spot prices. This phenomenon, known as strong backwardation, is inconsistent with Hotelling's theory under certainty that the net price of an exhaustible resource rises over time at the rate of interest. The authors introduce uncertainty and characterize oil wells as call options. They show that production occurs only if discounted futures are below spot prices, production is nonincreasing in the riskiness of future prices, and strong backwardation emerges if the riskiness of future prices is sufficiently high. The empirical analysis indicates that U.S. oil production is inversely related and backwardation is directly related to implied volatility. Copyright 1995 by American Finance Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Litzenberger, Robert H & Rabinowitz, Nir, 1995. " Backwardation in Oil Futures Markets: Theory and Empirical Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(5), pages 1517-1545, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jfinan:v:50:y:1995:i:5:p:1517-45
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    References listed on IDEAS

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