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Price Non-Convergence in Commodities: A Case Study of the Wheat Conundrum


  • Sophie van Huellen

    () (Department of Economics, SOAS, University of London, UK)


The close relationship between commodity future and cash prices is critical for the effectiveness of risk management and the functioning of price discovery. However, in recent years, commodity futures prices, across the board, have appeared increasingly detached from prices on physical markets. This paper argues that while various factors, identified in previous literature, which introduced limits to arbitrage have facilitated non-convergence, the actual extent of non-convergence in these markets is caused by essential differences in the mechanisms of price formation on physical and derivative markets. With reference to the particular case of the CBOT wheat market, the paper shows that the size of the spread between futures and cash prices can be theoretically and empirically linked to the increasing inflow of financial investment into commodity futures markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Sophie van Huellen, 2013. "Price Non-Convergence in Commodities: A Case Study of the Wheat Conundrum," Working Papers 185, Department of Economics, SOAS, University of London, UK.
  • Handle: RePEc:soa:wpaper:185

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hirshleifer, David, 1990. "Hedging Pressure and Futures Price Movements in a General Equilibrium Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(2), pages 411-428, March.
    2. Kilian, Lutz & Taylor, Mark P., 2003. "Why is it so difficult to beat the random walk forecast of exchange rates?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 85-107, May.
    3. De Long, J Bradford & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers & Robert J. Waldmann, 1990. "Noise Trader Risk in Financial Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 703-738, August.
    4. Crain, Susan J & Lee, Jae Ha, 1996. " Volatility in Wheat Spot and Futures Markets, 1950-1993: Government Farm Programs, Seasonality, and Causality," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(1), pages 325-343, March.
    5. Ke Tang & Wei Xiong, 2010. "Index Investment and Financialization of Commodities," NBER Working Papers 16385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Hernandez, Manuel & Torero, Maximo, 2010. "Examining the dynamic relationship between spot and future prices of agricultural commodities," IFPRI discussion papers 988, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. David Hirshleifer, 1988. "Residual Risk, Trading Costs, and Commodity Futures Risk Premia," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 1(2), pages 173-193.
    8. Summers, L.H. & Summers, V.P., 1989. "When Financial Markets Work Too Well : A Cautious Case For A Securities Transactions Tax," Papers t12, Columbia - Center for Futures Markets.
    9. Tokic, Damir, 2011. "Rational destabilizing speculation, positive feedback trading, and the oil bubble of 2008," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 2051-2061, April.
    10. Kaufmann, Robert K., 2011. "The role of market fundamentals and speculation in recent price changes for crude oil," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 105-115, January.
    11. Jörg Mayer, 2012. "The Growing Financialisation of Commodity Markets: Divergences between Index Investors and Money Managers," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(6), pages 751-767, June.
    12. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5465 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1997. " The Limits of Arbitrage," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 35-55, March.
    14. Jörg Mayer, 2009. "The Growing Interdependence Between Financial And Commodity Markets," UNCTAD Discussion Papers 195, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
    15. Fama, Eugene F & French, Kenneth R, 1987. "Commodity Futures Prices: Some Evidence on Forecast Power, Premiums,and the Theory of Storage," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(1), pages 55-73, January.
    16. Chang, Eric C, 1985. " Returns to Speculators and the Theory of Normal Backwardation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(1), pages 193-208, March.
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    More about this item


    commodity futures; commodity price formation; financialisation; nonconvergence;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • G13 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Contingent Pricing; Futures Pricing
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • Q11 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices
    • Q14 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Finance

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