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The Adequacy of Speculation in Agricultural Futures Markets: Too Much of a Good Thing?

  • Sanders, Dwight R.
  • Irwin, Scott H.
  • Merrin, Robert P.

The objective of this report is to re-visit the “adequacy of speculation” debate in agricultural futures markets. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission makes available the positions held by index funds and other large traders in their Commitment of Traders reports. The results suggest that after an initial surge from early 2004 through mid-2005, index fund positions have stabilized as a percent of total open interest. Traditional speculative measures do not show any material changes or shifts over the sample period. In most markets, the increase in long speculative positions was equaled or surpassed by an increase in short hedging. So, even after adjusting speculative indices for index fund positions, values are within the historical ranges reported in prior research. One implication is that long-only index funds may be beneficial in markets traditionally dominated by short hedging. Attempts to curb speculation through regulatory means should be weighed carefully against the potential benefits provided by this class of speculators.

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Paper provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics in its series Marketing and Outlook Research Reports with number 37512.

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Date of creation: Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ags:uiucmr:37512
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  1. Richard N. Cooper & Robert Z. Lawrence, 1975. "The 1972-75 Commodity Boom," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(3), pages 671-724.
  2. Gary Gorton & K. Rouwenhorst, 2004. "Facts and Fantasies about Commodity Futures," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2619, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Mar 2005.
  3. Trostle, Ronald, 2008. "Factors Contributing to Recent Increases in Food Commodity Prices (PowerPoint)," Seminars 43902, USDA Economists Group.
  4. Gary B. Gorton & Fumio Hayashi & K. Geert Rouwenhorst, 2007. "The Fundamentals of Commodity Futures Returns," NBER Working Papers 13249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers & Robert J. Waldmann, . "Noise Trader Risk in Financial Markets," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _124, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.
  6. Changyun Wang, 2003. "The behavior and performance of major types of futures traders," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(1), pages 1-31, 01.
  7. Hardouvelis, Gikas A & Kim, Dongcheol, 1995. "Price Volatility and Futures Margins," CEPR Discussion Papers 1263, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Sanders, Dwight R. & Irwin, Scott H. & Merrin, Robert P., 2007. "Smart Money? The Forecasting Ability of CFTC Large Traders," 2007 Conference, April 16-17, 2007, Chicago, Illinois 37556, NCCC-134 Conference on Applied Commodity Price Analysis, Forecasting, and Market Risk Management.
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