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Are Product Spreads Useful for Forecasting? An Empirical Evaluation of the Verleger Hypothesis

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  • Baumeister, Christiane
  • Kilian, Lutz
  • Zhou, Xiaoqing

Abstract

Notwithstanding a resurgence in research on out-of-sample forecasts of the price of oil in recent years, there is one important approach to forecasting the real price of oil which has not been studied systematically to date. This approach is based on the premise that demand for crude oil derives from the demand for refined products such as gasoline or heating oil. Oil industry analysts such as Philip Verleger and financial analysts widely believe that there is predictive power in the product spread, defined as the difference between suitably weighted refined product market prices and the price of crude oil. Our objective is to evaluate this proposition. We derive from first principles a number of alternative forecasting model specifications involving product spreads and compare these models to the no-change forecast of the real price of oil. We show that not all product spread models are useful for out-of-sample forecasting, but some models are, even at horizons between one and two years. The most accurate model is a time-varying parameter model of gasoline and heating oil spot spreads that allows the marginal product market to change over time. We document MSPE reductions as high as 20% and directional accuracy as high as 63% at the two-year horizon, making product spread models a good complement to forecasting models based on economic fundamentals, which work best at short horizons.

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  • Baumeister, Christiane & Kilian, Lutz & Zhou, Xiaoqing, 2013. "Are Product Spreads Useful for Forecasting? An Empirical Evaluation of the Verleger Hypothesis," CEPR Discussion Papers 9572, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9572
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    1. Van Robays, Ine & Belu Mănescu, Cristiana, 2014. "Forecasting the Brent oil price: addressing time-variation in forecast performance," Working Paper Series 1735, European Central Bank.
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    3. Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian, 2015. "Forecasting the Real Price of Oil in a Changing World: A Forecast Combination Approach," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(3), pages 338-351, July.
    4. Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian & Thomas K. Lee, 2017. "Inside the Crystal Ball: New Approaches to Predicting the Gasoline Price at the Pump," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(2), pages 275-295, March.
    5. Zhang, Hui Jun & Dufour, Jean-Marie & Galbraith, John W., 2016. "Exchange rates and commodity prices: Measuring causality at multiple horizons," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 100-120.
    6. Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian, 2014. "Do oil price increases cause higher food prices? [Biofuels, binding constraints, and agricultural commodity price volatility]," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 29(80), pages 691-747.
    7. Bastianin, Andrea & Galeotti, Marzio & Manera, Matteo, 2014. "Forecasting the oil–gasoline price relationship: Do asymmetries help?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(S1), pages 44-56.
    8. Anthony Garratt & Shaun P. Vahey & Yunyi Zhang, 2019. "Real‐time forecast combinations for the oil price," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 34(3), pages 456-462, April.
    9. Bernard, Jean-Thomas & Khalaf, Lynda & Kichian, Maral & Yelou, Clement, 2018. "Oil Price Forecasts For The Long Term: Expert Outlooks, Models, Or Both?," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(3), pages 581-599, April.
    10. Funk, Christoph, 2018. "Forecasting the real price of oil - Time-variation and forecast combination," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 288-302.
    11. Xuluo Yin & Jiangang Peng & Tian Tang, 2018. "Improving the Forecasting Accuracy of Crude Oil Prices," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(2), pages 1-9, February.
    12. Degiannakis, Stavros & Filis, George, 2017. "Forecasting oil prices," MPRA Paper 77531, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Degiannakis, Stavros & Filis, George, 2018. "Forecasting oil prices: High-frequency financial data are indeed useful," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 388-402.
    14. Baumeister, Christiane & Guérin, Pierre & Kilian, Lutz, 2015. "Do high-frequency financial data help forecast oil prices? The MIDAS touch at work," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 238-252.
    15. Mohamad B. Karaki, 2018. "Asymmetries In The Responses Of Regional Job Flows To Oil Price Shocks," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 56(3), pages 1827-1845, July.
    16. Arunanondchai, Panit & Senia, Mark C. & Capps, Oral Jr, 2017. "Can U.S. EIA Retail Gasoline Price Forecasts Be Improved Upon?," 2017 Annual Meeting, February 4-7, 2017, Mobile, Alabama 252717, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    17. Elder, John & Miao, Hong & Ramchander, Sanjay, 2014. "Price discovery in crude oil futures," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(S1), pages 18-27.
    18. Liu, Li & Wang, Yudong & Yang, Li, 2018. "Predictability of crude oil prices: An investor perspective," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 193-205.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    acquisition cost; crack spread; forecast accuracy; futures; oil price; real-time data; refined products; WTI;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy

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