Is Managed Futures an Asset Class? The Search for the Beta of Commodity Futures

55 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2007 Last revised: 17 May 2010

Michael Mack Frankfurter

IQ3 Solutions Group

Davide Accomazzo

Pepperdine University - Graziadio School of Business

Date Written: December 31, 2007


This paper investigates potential sources of return to speculators in the commodity futures market. Initially, we focus on the classic arbitrage model based on the theories of Keynes (1930), Kaldor (1939), Hicks (1939, 1946), Working (1948) and Brennan (1958). Next our study examines the simplified arbitrage model which references the term structure of the futures price curve and provides rationale for a structural risk premium known as the roll return. We then introduce our theory of roll yield permutations which is derived from integrating the futures price curve with the expected future spot price variable. Last, we investigate Spurgin's (2000) hedging response model from which asymmetric hedging response functions transfer risk premia to speculators.

Our research indicates that these models have inherent shortcomings in being able to pinpoint a definitive source of structural risk premium within the complexity of the commodity futures markets. We hypothesize that the classic arbitrage pricing theory contains circular logic, and as a consequence, its natural state is disequilibrium, not equilibrium. We extend this hypothesis to suggest that the term structure of the futures price curve, while indicative of a potential roll return benefit, in fact implies a complex series of roll yield permutations. Similarly, the hedging response function elicits a behavioral risk management mechanisms, and therefore, corroborates social reflexivity. Such models are inter-related and each reflects certain qualities and dynamics within the overall futures market paradigm.

With respect to managed futures, it is an observable materialization of behavioral finance, where risk, return, leverage and skill operate un-tethered from the anchor of an accurate representation of beta. In other words, it defies rational expectations equilibrium, the efficient market hypothesis and allied models - the CAPM, arbitrage pricing theory or otherwise - to single-handedly isolate a persistent source of return without that source eventually slipping away.

Keywords: Futures Market, Commodities, Managed Futures, Backwardation, Contango, Risk Premia, Futures Price Curve, Roll Return, Convenience Yield, Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), Alpha, Beta, Arbitrage Pricing Theory, Hedging Pressure Hypothesis, Rational Expectations, Equilibrium

JEL Classification: B23, C53, C68, D41, D58, D82, D84, E12, G11, G13

Suggested Citation

Frankfurter, Michael Mack and Accomazzo, Davide, Is Managed Futures an Asset Class? The Search for the Beta of Commodity Futures (December 31, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Mack Frankfurter (Contact Author)

IQ3 Solutions Group ( email )

PO Box 402
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
United States
(310) 849-5818 (Phone)


Davide Accomazzo

Pepperdine University - Graziadio School of Business ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
(310) 506-4000 (Phone)


Paper statistics

Abstract Views