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Do Speculators Drive Crude Oil Futures Prices?

Bahattin Buyuksahin and Jeffrey H. Harris

Year: 2011
Volume: Volume 32
Number: Number 2
DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No2-7
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Abstract:
The coincident rise in crude oil prices and increased number of financial participants in the crude oil futures market from 2000-2008 has led to allegations that "speculators" drive crude oil prices. As crude oil futures peaked at $147/ bbl in July 2008, the role of speculators came under heated debate. In this paper, we employ unique data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to test the relation between crude oil prices and the trading positions of various types of traders in the crude oil futures market. We employ Granger Causality tests to analyze lead and lag relations between price and position data at daily and multiple day intervals. We find little evidence that hedge funds and other non-commercial (speculator) position changes Granger-cause price changes; the results instead suggest that price changes precede their position changes.



Herding and Speculation in the Crude Oil Market

Celso Brunetti, Bahattin Buyuksahin, and Jeffrey H. Harris

Year: 2013
Volume: Volume 34
Number: Number 3
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.34.3.5
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Abstract:
We examine whether herding among speculators in U.S. crude oil futures markets affects market prices and volatility. Using detailed data on the positions of hedge funds and swap dealers from 2005-2009, we find little evidence that herding destabilizes the crude oil futures market. To the contrary, herding among speculative traders is negatively correlated with contemporaneous volatility and does not lead next-day volatility. Our impulse-response analysis shows that market regulators should monitor herding since a shock to herding among all groups may lead to price changes, and, in the case of hedge funds, may lead to increased volatility. Interestingly, however, increased swap dealer herding actually dampens crude oil price volatility.



Physical Markets, Paper Markets and the WTI-Brent Spread

Bahattin Buyuksahin, Thomas K. Lee, James T. Moser, and Michel A. Robe

Year: 2013
Volume: Volume 34
Number: Number 3
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.34.3.7
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Abstract:
We document that, starting in the Fall of 2008, the benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has periodically traded at unheard-of discounts to the corresponding Brent benchmark. We further document that this discount is not reflected in spreads between Brent and other benchmarks that are directly comparable to WTI. Drawing on extant models linking oil inventory conditions to the futures term structure, we test empirically several conjectures about how calendar and commodity spreads (nearby vs. first-deferred WTI; nearby Brent vs. WTI) should move over time and be related to storage conditions at Cushing. We then investigate whether, after controlling for macroeconomic and physical market fundamentals, spread behavior is partly predicted by the aggregate oil futures positions of commodity index traders.



OPEC "Fair Price" Pronouncements and the Market Price of Crude Oil

Celso Brunetti, Bahattin Buyuksahin, Michel A. Robe, and Kirsten R. Soneson

Year: 2013
Volume: Volume 34
Number: Number 4
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.34.4.5
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Abstract:
OPEC producers, individually or collectively, often make statements regarding the "fair price" of crude oil. In some cases, the officials commenting are merely affirming the market price prevailing at the time. In many cases, however, we document that they explicitly disagree with contemporaneous oil futures prices. A natural question is whether these "fair price" pronouncements contain information not already reflected in the market price of crude oil. To find the answer, we collect "fair price" statements made from 2000 through 2010 by officials from OPEC or OPEC member countries. Visually, the "fair price" series looks like a sampling discretely drawn (with a lag) from the daily futures market price series. Formally, we use two primary methodologies to establish that "fair price" pronouncements have little influence on the market price of crude oil and provide little or no new news to oil futures market participants.





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