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Interest rates and the volatility and correlation of commodity prices

  • Joseph W. Gruber
  • Robert J. Vigfusson

We purpose a novel explanation for the observed increase in the correlation of commodity prices over the past decade. In contrast to theories that rely on the increased influence of financial speculators, we show that price correlation can increase as a result of a decline in the interest rate. More generally, we examine the effect of interest rates on the volatility and correlation of commodity prices, theoretically through the framework of Deaton and Laroque (1992) and empirically via a panel GARCH model. In theory, we show that lower interest rates decrease the volatility of prices, as lower inventory costs promote the smoothing of transient shocks, and can increase price correlation if common shocks are more persistent than idiosyncratic shocks. Empirically, as predicted by theory, we find that price volatility attributable to transitory shocks declines with interest rates, while, for many commodity pairs, price correlation increases as interest rates decline.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series International Finance Discussion Papers with number 1065.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:1065
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  1. Vansteenkiste, Isabel, 2009. "How important are common factors in driving non-fuel commodity prices? A dynamic factor analysis," Working Paper Series 1072, European Central Bank.
  2. Charles Engel & Kenneth D. West, 2005. "Exchange Rates and Fundamentals," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(3), pages 485-517, June.
  3. David M Arseneau & Sylvain Leduc, 2013. "Commodity Price Movements in a General Equilibrium Model of Storage," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 61(1), pages 199-224, April.
  4. Fattouh, Bassam & Kilian, Lutz & Mahadeva, Lavan, 2012. "The Role of Speculation in Oil Markets: What Have We Learned So Far?," CEPR Discussion Papers 8916, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Ke Tang & Wei Xiong, 2010. "Index Investment and Financialization of Commodities," NBER Working Papers 16385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Joseph G. Haubrich & George Pennacchi & Peter Ritchken, 2011. "Inflation expectations, real rates, and risk premia: evidence from inflation swaps," Working Paper 1107, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  7. Bryan R. Routledge & Duane J. Seppi & Chester S. Spatt, 2000. "Equilibrium Forward Curves for Commodities," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(3), pages 1297-1338, 06.
  8. Eduardo Schwartz & James E. Smith, 2000. "Short-Term Variations and Long-Term Dynamics in Commodity Prices," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(7), pages 893-911, July.
  9. Deaton, Angus & Laroque, Guy, 1996. "Competitive Storage and Commodity Price Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 896-923, October.
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