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Inefficiencies and Market Power in Financial Arbitrage: A Study of California's Electricity Markets

  • Borenstein, Severin
  • Bushnell, James
  • Knittel, Chris
  • Wolfram, Catherine

For two years prior to the collapse of Californiaï¾’s restructured electricity market, power traded in both a forward and a spot market for delivery at the same times and locations. Nonetheless, prices in the two markets often differed in significant and predictable ways. This apparent inefficiency persisted, we argue, because most firms believed that trading on inter-market price differences would yield regulatory penalties. For the few firms that did make such trades, it was not profit- maximizing to eliminate the price differences entirely. Skyrocketing prices in 2000 changed the major buyersï¾’ (utilitiesï¾’) incentives and exacerbated the price differentials between the markets.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 13133.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Industrial Economics, June 2008, vol. 56 no. 2, pp. 347-378
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:13133
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page:

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  1. Newey, Whitney K & West, Kenneth D, 1987. "A Simple, Positive Semi-definite, Heteroskedasticity and Autocorrelation Consistent Covariance Matrix," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 703-08, May.
  2. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:111:y:1996:i:4:p:1211-36 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. David C. Parsley & Shang-Jin Wei, 1996. "Convergence to the Law of One Price Without Trade Barriers or Currency Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 5654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kaminsky, Graciela, 1993. "Is There a Peso Problem? Evidence from the Dollar/Pound Exchange Rate, 1976-1987," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 450-72, June.
  5. Eric Zitzewitz, 2003. "Who Cares About Shareholders? Arbitrage-Proofing Mutual Funds," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 245-280, October.
  6. Bushnell, James & Mansur, Erin T., 2005. "Consumption Under Noisy Price Signals: A Study of Electricity Retail Rate Deregulation in San Diego," Staff General Research Papers 13142, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Bushnell, James & Wolfram, Catherine, 2008. "Electricity Markets," Staff General Research Papers 31547, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  8. Francis A. Longstaff & Ashley W. Wang, 2004. "Electricity Forward Prices: A High-Frequency Empirical Analysis," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(4), pages 1877-1900, 08.
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