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The Role of Inventories and Speculative Trading in the Global Market for Crude Oil

  • Kilian, Lutz
  • Murphy, Daniel P

We develop a structural model of the global market for crude oil that for the first time explicitly allows for shocks to the speculative demand for oil as well as shocks to the flow demand and flow supply. The forward-looking element of the real price of oil is identified with the help of data on oil inventories. The model estimates rule out explanations of the 2003-08 oil price surge based on unexpectedly diminishing oil supplies and based on speculative trading. Instead, we find that this surge was caused by fluctuations in the flow demand for oil driven by the global business cycle. There is evidence, however, that speculative demand shifts played an important role during earlier oil price shock episodes including 1979, 1986, and 1990. Recently, it has been suggested that it is possible for speculative trading to occur even without any change in oil inventories, if the short-run price elasticity of oil demand is zero. Our structural model allows us to obtain an estimate of this elasticity based on shifts of the supply curve along the demand curve. We show that, even after accounting for the role of inventories in smoothing oil consumption, our estimate of the price elasticity of oil demand is not close to zero and much higher than traditional estimates from dynamic models that do not account for price endogeneity. This eliminates speculation as an explanation of the 2003-08 oil price surge.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7753.

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Date of creation: Mar 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7753
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  1. Robert B. Barsky & Lutz Kilian, 2001. "Do We Really Know that Oil Caused the Great Stagflation? A Monetary Alternative," NBER Working Papers 8389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Christiane Baumeister & Gert Peersman, 2012. "Time-Varying Effects of Oil Supply Shocks on the U.S. Economy," Staff Working Papers 12-2, Bank of Canada.
  3. Renee Fry & Callum Jones & Christopher Kent, 2010. "Inflation in an Era of Relative Pirce Shocks," CAMA Working Papers 2010-38, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  4. Kilian, Lutz, 2006. "Not All Oil Price Shocks Are Alike: Disentangling Demand and Supply Shocks in the Crude Oil Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 5994, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Jonathan E. Hughes & Christopher R. Knittel & Daniel Sperling, 2008. "Evidence of a Shift in the Short-Run Price Elasticity of Gasoline Demand," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 113-134.
  6. Lutz Kilian, 2008. "The Economic Effects of Energy Price Shocks," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(4), pages 871-909, December.
  7. Lutz Kilian, 2010. "Explaining Fluctuations in Gasoline Prices: A Joint Model of the Global Crude Oil Market and the U.S. Retail Gasoline Market," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 87-112.
  8. Lutz Kilian, 2008. "Exogenous Oil Supply Shocks: How Big Are They and How Much Do They Matter for the U.S. Economy?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 216-240, May.
  9. C. Baumeister & G. Peersman & -, 2010. "Sources of the Volatility Puzzle in the Crude Oil Market," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 10/634, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
  10. Juan F. Rubio-Ramirez & Daniel Waggoner & Tao Zha, 2006. "Markov-Switching Structural Vector Autoregressions: Theory and Application," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 69, Society for Computational Economics.
  11. Lutz Kilian & Bruce Hicks, 2013. "Did Unexpectedly Strong Economic Growth Cause the Oil Price Shock of 2003–2008?," Journal of Forecasting, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(5), pages 385-394, 08.
  12. Edelstein, Paul & Kilian, Lutz, 2009. "How sensitive are consumer expenditures to retail energy prices?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 766-779, September.
  13. Dahl, Carol & Sterner, Thomas, 1991. "Analysing gasoline demand elasticities: a survey," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 203-210, July.
  14. Kilian, Lutz & Murphy, Daniel P, 2009. "Why Agnostic Sign Restrictions Are Not Enough: Understanding the Dynamics of Oil Market VAR Models," CEPR Discussion Papers 7471, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Ron Alquist & Lutz Kilian, 2010. "What do we learn from the price of crude oil futures?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(4), pages 539-573.
  16. Eyal Dvir & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Three Epochs of Oil," NBER Working Papers 14927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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