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The Role of Financial Speculation in Driving the Price of Crude Oil

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  • Ron Alquist
  • Olivier Gervais

Abstract

Over the past 10 years, financial firms have increased the size of their positions in the oil futures market. At the same time, oil prices have increased dramatically. The conjunction of these developments has led some observers to argue that financial speculation caused the run-up in oil prices. Yet several arguments cast doubt on the validity of this claim. First, although the stock of open futures contracts is many times larger than the flow of oil consumption in the United States, comparing these two statistics is misleading. Stocks are not measured with respect to a specific unit of time but flows are, so the two are not directly comparable. Second, empirical analysis shows that changes in financial firms’ positions do not predict oil-price changes, but that oil-price changes predict changes in positions. Third, the evidence indicates that financial firms’ positions did not cause the market to expect persistent price increases during 2007/08. Other explanations for the increase in oil prices include macroeconomic fundamentals, such as interest rates and increased demand from emerging Asia. Of these two explanations, the one that seems most consistent with the facts explains oil-price fluctuations in terms of large and persistent demand shocks related to growth in global real activity in the presence of supply constraints.

Suggested Citation

  • Ron Alquist & Olivier Gervais, 2011. "The Role of Financial Speculation in Driving the Price of Crude Oil," Discussion Papers 11-6, Bank of Canada.
  • Handle: RePEc:bca:bocadp:11-6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Derek Bunn, Julien Chevallier, Yannick Le Pen, and Benoit Sevi, 2017. "Fundamental and Financial Influences on the Co-movement of Oil and Gas Prices," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).
    2. Deeney, Peter & Cummins, Mark & Dowling, Michael & Bermingham, Adam, 2015. "Sentiment in oil markets," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 179-185.
    3. Matteo Manera & Marcella Nicolini, 2013. "Futures Price Volatility in Commodities Markets: The Role of Short Term vs Long Term Speculation," Working Papers 2013.45, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    4. Deepa Datta & Benjamin K Johannsen & Hannah Kwon & Robert J Vigfusson, 2017. "Oil, equities, and the zero lower bound," BIS Working Papers 617, Bank for International Settlements.
    5. Ding, Haoyuan & Kim, Hyung-Gun & Park, Sung Y., 2014. "Do net positions in the futures market cause spot prices of crude oil?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 177-190.
    6. repec:eee:phsmap:v:495:y:2018:i:c:p:30-39 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Morana, Claudio, 2013. "Oil price dynamics, macro-finance interactions and the role of financial speculation," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 206-226.
    8. Andreas Fritz & Michael Stein & Christoph Weber, 2015. "The Role of Heterogeneous Agents in Fuel Markets: Testing Tales of Speculators in Oil Markets," EWL Working Papers 1505, University of Duisburg-Essen, Chair for Management Science and Energy Economics, revised Aug 2015.
    9. Genevre Covindassamy & Michel A. Robe & Jonathan Wallen, 2016. "Sugar With Your Coffee?: Financials, Fundamentals, and Soft Price Uncertainty," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8588, Inter-American Development Bank.
    10. Li, Yingzi & Fortenbery, T. Randall, 2013. "Do Speculators in Futures Markets Make Cash Markets More Volatile?," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 151296, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    11. Olivier Rousse & Benoît Sévi, 2016. "Informed Trading in Oil-Futures Market," Working Papers hal-01410093, HAL.
    12. Marcella Nicolini & Matteo Manera & Ilaria Vignati, 2013. "Detecting speculation in volatility of commodities futures markets," EcoMod2013 5125, EcoMod.
    13. 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).
    14. Ding, Haoyuan & Kim, Hyung-Gun & Park, Sung Y., 2016. "Crude oil and stock markets: Causal relationships in tails?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 58-69.
    15. Li, Haiqi & Kim, Hyung-Gun & Park, Sung Y., 2015. "The role of financial speculation in the energy future markets: A new time-varying coefficient approach," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 112-122.
    16. Yannick Le Pen & Benoît Sévi, 2013. "Futures trading and the excess comovement of commodity prices," Post-Print hal-01613916, HAL.
    17. Adams, Zeno & Kartsakli, Maria, 2017. "Has Crude Oil Become a Financial Asset? Evidence from Ten Years of Financialization," Working Papers on Finance 1710, University of St. Gallen, School of Finance.
    18. Liu, Li & Wang, Yudong & Wu, Chongfeng & Wu, Wenfeng, 2016. "Disentangling the determinants of real oil prices," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 363-373.
    19. Li, Haiqi & Kim, Myeong Jun & Park, Sung Y., 2016. "Nonlinear relationship between crude oil price and net futures positions: A dynamic conditional distribution approach," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 217-225.
    20. Hamilton, James D. & Wu, Jing Cynthia, 2014. "Risk premia in crude oil futures prices," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 9-37.
    21. Gogolin, Fabian & Kearney, Fearghal, 2016. "Does speculation impact what factors determine oil futures prices?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 119-122.
    22. Berk, Istemi & Rauch, Jannes, 2016. "Regulatory interventions in the US oil and gas sector: How do the stock markets perceive the CFTC's announcements during the 2008 financial crisis?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 337-348.
    23. 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.
    24. Balcilar, Mehmet & Ozdemir, Zeynel Abidin & Yetkiner, Hakan, 2014. "Are there really bubbles in oil prices?," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 416(C), pages 631-638.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    International topics;

    JEL classification:

    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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