Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Commodity Index Traders -- The New Whipping Boys?*

An August CFTC conference in Washington DC was organised to highlight and discuss recent academic research on key issues affecting commodity markets. The conference came at a time of intense debate surrounding recent CFTC rulemaking.  Several conference panelists argued that speculators in general, and commodity index traders (CITs) in particular, have affected the functioning of commodity markets and caused oil price swings that cannot be explained by energy market fundamentals – especially during the 2008 financial crisis.  However, in the presentations of that set of papers, we failed to see any detailed accounting for those very fundamentals.  In contrast, the few papers at the conference that focused on fundamentals found no clear-cut evidence of speculators driving prices away from their fundamental values.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Do Institutional Traders Predict Bull and Bear Markets?

I will be presenting our new research paper (joint work with Celso Brunetti and Jeffrey Harris), entitled "Do Institutional Traders Predict Bull and Bear Markets?", at the American University, Washington DC, on October 13,  at the International Monetary Fund  in Washington DC, on October 14, 2011 and at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany on November 10, 2011. 

We analyze the role of hedge fund, swap dealer and arbitrageur activity in a Markov regime-switching model between high volatility bear markets and low volatility bull markets for crude oil, corn and Mini-S&P500 index futures. We find that these institutional positions reflect fundamental economic factors within each market. More importantly, institutional positions also contribute incrementally to the probability of regime changes displaying the synchronization patterns modeled in Abreu and Brunnermeier (2002; 2003). Conditioning on hedge fund activity and arbitrageur activity significantly improves our probability estimates, demonstrating that institutional positions can be useful in determining whether price trends resembling bubble patterns will continue or reverse.