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Are commodity prices more volatile now ? a long-run perspective

  • Calvo-Gonzalez, Oscar
  • Shankar, Rashmi
  • Trezzi, Riccardo

Soaring commodity prices in 2007 and 2008 raised concerns that volatility was also rising, which would have implications for welfare and therefore for the design of public policy interventions. The literature focuses on trends in commodity prices rather than their volatility characteristics. This paper contributes by examining commodity price volatility with a newly compiled monthly panel dataset on 45 individual commodity prices from the end of the 18th century until today. The main conclusions are: the timing and number of breaks in volatility vary considerably across individual commodities, cautioning against generalizations based on the use of commodity price indices; the three most significant breaks common to most commodities are the two world wars and the collapse of the Bretton-Woods system; and structural breaks marking increased price volatility are followed by breaks marking declines in volatility so that there is no upward or downward trend in volatility over time.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5460.

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Date of creation: 01 Oct 2010
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5460
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  1. Eric Hillebrand & Gunther Schnabl, 2008. "A structural break in the effects of Japanese foreign exchange intervention on yen/dollar exchange rate volatility," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 389-401, December.
  2. Granger, Clive W.J. & Hyung, Namwon, 1999. "Occasional Structural Breaks and Long Memory," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt4d60t4jh, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  3. Kokoszka, Piotr & Leipus, Remigijus, 1998. "Change-point in the mean of dependent observations," Statistics & Probability Letters, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 385-393, November.
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  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. Paul Cashin & C. John McCDermott, 2002. "The Long-Run Behavior of Commodity Prices: Small Trends and Big Variability," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 49(2), pages 2.
  8. Elena Andreou & Eric Ghysels, 2001. "Detecting Mutiple Breaks in Financial Market Volatility Dynamics," CIRANO Working Papers 2001s-65, CIRANO.
  9. Moledina, Amyaz A. & Roe, Terry L. & Shane, Mathew, 2004. "Measuring Commodity Price Volatility And The Welfare Consequences Of Eliminating Volatility," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 19963, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  10. John T Cuddington & Daniel Jerrett, 2008. "Super Cycles in Real Metals Prices?," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 55(4), pages 541-565, December.
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