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Why and when do spot prices of crude oil revert to futures price levels?

  • Mark W. French
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    Recent studies of crude oil price formation emphasize the role of interest rates and convenience yield (the adjusted spot-futures spread), confirming that spot prices mean-revert and normally exceed discounted futures. However, these studies don't explain why such "backwardation" is normal. Also, models derived in these studies typically explain only about 1 percent of daily returns, suggesting other factors are important, too. In this paper, I specify a structural oil-market model that links returns to convenience yield, inventory news, and revisions of expected production cost (growth of which is related to backwardation). Although its predictive power is only a marginal improvement, the model fits the data far better. In addition, I find reversion of spot to futures prices only when backwardation is severe. Convenience yield behaves nonlinearly, but price response to convenience yield is also nonlinear. Equivalently, futures are informative about future spot prices only when spot prices substantially exceed futures.

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    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2005-30.

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    Date of creation: 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2005-30
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    1. Bryan Routledge & Duane Seppi & Chester Spatt, . "Equilibrium Forward Curves for Commodities," GSIA Working Papers 1997-50, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
    2. Pindyck, Robert S., 1998. "The long-run evolution of energy prices," Working papers WP 4044-98., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    3. Malcolm P. Baker & E. Scott Mayfield & John E. Parsons, 1998. "Alternative Models of Uncertain Commodity Prices for Use with Modern Asset Pricing Methods," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 115-148.
    4. Robert S. Pindyck, 1992. "The Present Value Model of Rational Commodity Pricing," NBER Working Papers 4083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Robert S. Pindyck, 2001. "The Dynamics of Commodity Spot and Futures Markets: A Primer," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 1-30.
    6. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 5474.
    7. Deaton, Angus & Laroque, Guy, 1992. "On the Behaviour of Commodity Prices," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 1-23, January.
    8. Colin A. Carter & Cesar L. Revoredo Giha, 2007. "The Working Curve and Commodity Storage under Backwardation," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 89(4), pages 864-872.
    9. Considine, Timothy J. & Larson, Donald F., 2001. "Uncertainty and the convenience yield in crude oil price backwardations," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 533-548, September.
    10. Danthine, Jean-Pierre, 1977. "Martingale, market efficiency and commodity prices," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 1-17.
    11. Schwartz, Eduardo S, 1997. " The Stochastic Behavior of Commodity Prices: Implications for Valuation and Hedging," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(3), pages 923-73, July.
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