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Bubbles, Food Prices, and Speculation: Evidence from the CFTC's Daily Large Trader Data Files

In: The Economics of Food Price Volatility

Author

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  • Nicole M. Aulerich
  • Scott H. Irwin
  • Philip Garcia

Abstract

The "Masters Hypothesis" is the claim that unprecedented buying pressure from new financial index investors created a massive bubble in agricultural futures prices at various times in recent years. This paper analyzes the market impact of financial index investment in agricultural futures markets using non-public data from the Large Trader Reporting System (LTRS) maintained by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The LTRS data are superior to publicly-available data because commodity index trader (CIT) positions are available on a daily basis, positions are disaggregated by contract maturity, and positions before 2006 can be reliably estimated. Bivariate Granger causality tests use CIT positions in terms of both the change in aggregate new net flows into index investments and the rolling of existing index positions from one contract to another. The null hypothesis of no impact of aggregate CIT positions on daily returns is rejected in only 3 of the 12 markets. Point estimates of the cumulative impact of a one standard deviation increase in CIT positions on daily returns are negative and very small, averaging only about two basis points. The null hypothesis that CIT positions do not impact daily returns in a data-defined roll period is rejected in 5 of the 12 markets and estimated cumulative impacts are negative in all 12 markets; the opposite of the expected outcome if CIT rolling activity simultaneously pressures nearby prices downward and first deferred prices upward. Overall, the results add to the growing body of literature showing that buying pressure from financial index investment in recent years did not cause massive bubbles in agricultural futures prices.
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Suggested Citation

  • Nicole M. Aulerich & Scott H. Irwin & Philip Garcia, 2014. "Bubbles, Food Prices, and Speculation: Evidence from the CFTC's Daily Large Trader Data Files," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Food Price Volatility, pages 211-253 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12814
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. Büyükşahin, Bahattin & Robe, Michel A., 2014. "Speculators, commodities and cross-market linkages," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 38-70.
    3. Christopher L. Gilbert, 2010. "How to Understand High Food Prices," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 398-425.
    4. Bassam Fattouh, Lutz Kilian, and Lavan Mahadeva, 2013. "The Role of Speculation in Oil Markets: What Have We Learned So Far?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3).
    5. Gunther Capelle-Blancard & Dramane Coulibaly, 2011. "Index trading and agricultural commodity prices: A panel Granger causality analysis," International Economics, CEPII research center, issue 126-127, pages 51-71.
    6. Erkko Etula, 2013. "Broker-Dealer Risk Appetite and Commodity Returns," Journal of Financial Econometrics, Society for Financial Econometrics, vol. 11(3), pages 486-521, June.
    7. Ing-Haw Cheng & Andrei Kirilenko & Wei Xiong, 2015. "Convective Risk Flows in Commodity Futures Markets," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 19(5), pages 1733-1781.
    8. Irwin, Scott H. & Sanders, Dwight R., 2012. "Testing the Masters Hypothesis in commodity futures markets," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 256-269.
    9. Brunetti, Celso & Reiffen, David, 2014. "Commodity index trading and hedging costs," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 153-180.
    10. Ke Tang & Wei Xiong, 2010. "Index Investment and Financialization of Commodities," NBER Working Papers 16385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Bellemare, Marc F., 2011. "Rising food prices, food price volatility, and political unrest," MPRA Paper 31888, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Sanders, Dwight R. & Irwin, Scott H., 2014. "Energy futures prices and commodity index investment: New evidence from firm-level position data," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(S1), pages 57-68.
    2. Kritika Mathur & Nidhi Kaicker & Raghav Gaiha & Katsushi S. Imai & Ganesh Thapa, 2014. "Financialisation of food commodity markets, price surge and volatility: new evidence," Chapters,in: Handbook on Food, chapter 7, pages 149-176 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. James D. Hamilton & Jing Cynthia Wu, 2015. "Effects Of Index‐Fund Investing On Commodity Futures Prices," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 56, pages 187-205, February.
    4. repec:eee:riibaf:v:42:y:2017:i:c:p:912-921 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:eneeco:v:66:y:2017:i:c:p:122-139 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Huchet, Nicolas & Fam, Papa Gueye, 2016. "The role of speculation in international futures markets on commodity prices," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 49-65.
    7. Manera, Matteo & Nicolini, Marcella & Vignati, Ilaria, 2016. "Modelling futures price volatility in energy markets: Is there a role for financial speculation?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 220-229.
    8. Haase, Marco & Seiler Zimmermann, Yvonne & Zimmermann, Heinz, 2016. "The impact of speculation on commodity futures markets – A review of the findings of 100 empirical studies," Journal of Commodity Markets, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 1-15.
    9. repec:eee:jfpoli:v:69:y:2017:i:c:p:256-269 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Etienne, Xiaoli L. & Irwin, Scott H. & Garcia, Philip, 2013. "Dissecting Corn Price Movements with Directed Acyclic Graphs," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 151279, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G13 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Contingent Pricing; Futures Pricing
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • Q13 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Markets and Marketing; Cooperatives; Agribusiness
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

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