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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. Lutz Kilian & Daniel P. Murphy, 2012. "Why Agnostic Sign Restrictions Are Not Enough: Understanding The Dynamics Of Oil Market Var Models," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(5), pages 1166-1188, October.
  2. 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.
  3. Juan Francisco Rubio-Ramírez & Daniel Waggoner & Tao Zha, 2005. "Markov-switching structural vector autoregressions: theory and application," Working Paper 2005-27, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  4. Robert B. Barsky & Lutz Kilian, 2002. "Do We Really Know that Oil Caused the Great Stagflation? A Monetary Alternative," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2001, Volume 16, pages 137-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kilian, Lutz, 2005. "Exogenous Oil Supply Shocks: How Big Are They and How Much do they Matter for the US Economy?," CEPR Discussion Papers 5131, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. Christopher Knittel & Daniel Sperling, 2006. "Evidence of a Shift in the Short-Run Price Elasticity of Gasoline Demand," Working Papers 625, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  8. Lutz Kilian, 2008. "The Economic Effects of Energy Price Shocks," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(4), pages 871-909, December.
  9. Alquist, Ron & Kilian, Lutz, 2007. "What Do We Learn from the Price of Crude Oil Futures?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6548, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Christiane Baumeister & Gert Peersman, 2013. "Time-Varying Effects of Oil Supply Shocks on the US Economy," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 1-28, October.
  11. repec:acb:camaaa:2010-38 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. 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.
  13. Lutz Kilian, 2009. "Not All Oil Price Shocks Are Alike: Disentangling Demand and Supply Shocks in the Crude Oil Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 1053-69, June.
  14. Eyal Dvir & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Three Epochs of Oil," NBER Working Papers 14927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Dahl, Carol & Sterner, Thomas, 1991. "Analysing gasoline demand elasticities: a survey," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 203-210, July.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
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