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The Long-Run Behavior of Commodity Prices; Small Trends and Big Variability

Using the longest dataset publicly available (The Economist's index of industrial commodity prices), we analyze the behavior of real commodity prices over the period 1862-99, and have two main findings. First, while there has been a downward trend in real commodity prices of 1.3 percent per year over the last 140 years, little support is found for a break in the long-run trend decline in commodity prices. Second, there is evidence of a ratcheting up in the variability of price movements. The amplitude of price movements increased in the early 1900s, while the frequency of large price movements increased after the collapse of the Bretton Woods regime of fixed exchange rates in the early 1970s. While there is a downward trend in real commodity prices, this is of little practical policy relevance as it is small and completely dominated by the variability of prices.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 01/68.

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Length: 27
Date of creation: 01 May 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:01/68
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  1. Hong Liang & C. John McDermott & Paul Cashin, 1999. "How Persistent Are Shocks to World Commodity Prices?," IMF Working Papers 99/80, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Lutz, Matthias G, 1999. "A General Test of the Prebisch-Singer Hypothesis," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(1), pages 44-57, February.
  3. Leon, Javier & Soto, Raimundo, 1995. "Structural breaks and long-run trends in commodity prices," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1406, The World Bank.
  4. Mussa, Michael, 1986. "Nominal exchange rate regimes and the behavior of real exchange rates: Evidence and implications," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 117-214, January.
  5. Perron, P., 1989. "Testing For A Unit Root In A Time Series With A Changing Mean," Papers 347, Princeton, Department of Economics - Econometric Research Program.
  6. Cuddington, John T., 1992. "Long-run trends in 26 primary commodity prices : A disaggregated look at the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 207-227, October.
  7. Diebold, Francis X & Rudebusch, Glenn D, 1992. "Have Postwar Economic Fluctuations Been Stabilized?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 993-1005, September.
  8. Mark W. Watson, 1992. "Business Cycle Durations and Postwar Stabilization of the U.S. Economy," NBER Working Papers 4005, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Reinhart, Carmen & Wickham, Peter, 1994. "Commodity Prices: Cyclical Weakness or Secular Decline?," MPRA Paper 8173, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Paul Cashin & C John McDermott & Alasdair Scott, 1999. "Booms and slumps in world commodity prices," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Discussion Paper Series G99/8, Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
  11. Gilbert, Christopher L, 1989. "The Impact of Exchange Rates and Developing Country Debt on Commodity Prices," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(397), pages 773-84, September.
  12. Powell, A., 1989. "Commodity And Developing Country Terms Of Trade, What Does The Long Run Show?," Economics Series Working Papers 9980, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  13. Alan M. Taylor, 2002. "A Century Of Purchasing-Power Parity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 139-150, February.
  14. Grilli, Enzo R & Yang, Maw Cheng, 1988. "Primary Commodity Prices, Manufactured Goods Prices, and the Terms of Trade of Developing Countries: What the Long Run Shows," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 2(1), pages 1-47, January.
  15. Prebisch, Raúl, 1950. "The economic development of Latin America and its principal problems," Sede de la CEPAL en Santiago (Estudios e Investigaciones) 29973, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
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