The role of market fundamentals and speculation in recent price changes for crude oil
I hypothesize that the price spike and collapse of 2007-2008 are driven by both changes in both market fundamentals and speculative pressures. Contrary to arguments for a demand shock, I hypothesize that prices rise sharply in 2007-2008 because ongoing growth in Chinese oil demand runs into a sudden and unexpected halt to a decade long increase in non-OPEC production. This caused a loss of OPEC spare capacity because increased demand for OPEC production runs ahead of increases in OPEC capacity. These changes are reinforced by speculative expectations. Although difficult to measure directly, I argue for the role of speculation based on the following: (1) a significant increase in private US crude oil inventories since 2004; (2) repeated and extended break-downs (starting in 2004) in the cointegrating relationship between spot and far month future prices that are inconsistent with the law of one price and arbitrage opportunities; and (3) statistical and predictive failures by an econometric model of oil prices that is based on market fundamentals. These changes are related to the behavior and impact of noise traders on asset prices to sketch mechanisms by which speculative expectations can affect crude oil prices.
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