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Do financial investors destabilize the oil price?

  • Lombardi, Marco J.
  • Van Robays, Ine

In this paper, we assess whether and to what extent financial activity in the oil futures markets has contributed to destabilize oil prices in recent years. We define a destabilizing financial shock as a shift in oil prices that is not related to current and expected fundamentals, and thereby distorts efficient pricing in the oil market. Using a structural VAR model identified with sign restrictions, we disentangle this non-fundamental financial shock from fundamental shocks to oil supply and demand to determine their relative importance. We find that financial investors in the futures market can destabilize oil spot prices, although only in the short run. Moreover, financial activity appears to have exacerbated the volatility in the oil market over the past decade, particularly in 2007-2008. However, shocks to oil demand and supply remain the main drivers of oil price swings. JEL Classification: C32, Q41, Q31

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Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Working Paper Series with number 1346.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20111346
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  1. Acharya, Viral V. & Lochstoer, Lars A. & Ramadorai, Tarun, 2013. "Limits to arbitrage and hedging: Evidence from commodity markets," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 441-465.
  2. Kilian, Lutz & Murphy, Daniel P, 2010. "The Role of Inventories and Speculative Trading in the Global Market for Crude Oil," CEPR Discussion Papers 7753, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. 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.
  4. Gert Peersman & Ine Van Robays, 2010. "Cross-Country Differences in the Effects of Oil Shocks," CESifo Working Paper Series 3306, CESifo Group Munich.
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  9. J. Isaac Miller & Ronald Ratti, 2008. "Crude Oil and Stock Markets: Stability, Instability, and Bubbles," Working Papers 0810, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 20 Jan 2009.
  10. Gert Peersman & Ine Van Robays, 2009. "Oil and the Euro area economy," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 24, pages 603-651, October.
  11. Gert Peersman, 2005. "What caused the early millennium slowdown? Evidence based on vector autoregressions," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(2), pages 185-207.
  12. 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.
  13. Pindyck, Robert S., 1991. "The present value model of rational commodity pricing," Working papers 3354-91., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  14. Renee Fry & Adrian Pagan, 2010. "Sign Restrictions in Structural Vector Autoregressions: A Critical Review," CAMA Working Papers 2010-22, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  15. Scott H. Irwin & Dwight R. Sanders, 2010. "The Impact of Index and Swap Funds on Commodity Futures Markets: Preliminary Results," OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers 27, OECD Publishing.
  16. Kaufmann, Robert K. & Ullman, Ben, 2009. "Oil prices, speculation, and fundamentals: Interpreting causal relations among spot and futures prices," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 550-558, July.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Christiane Baumeister & Gert Peersman, 2012. "Time-Varying Effects of Oil Supply Shocks on the U.S. Economy," Working Papers 12-2, Bank of Canada.
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