35 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2011
Date Written: March 23, 2011
This paper explores the impact of investor flows and financial market conditions on returns in crude-oil futures markets. I begin with a review of the economic mechanisms by which informational frictions and the associated speculative activity may induce prices to drift away from fundamental" values and show increased volatility. This is followed by a discussion of the interplay between imperfect information about real economic activity, including supply, demand, and inventory accumulation, and speculative activity. Finally, I present new evidence that there was an economically and statistically significant effect of investor flows on futures prices, after controlling for returns in US and emerging-economy stock markets, a measure of the balance-sheet flexibility of large financial institutions, open interest, the futures/spot basis, and lagged returns on oil futures. The intermediate-term growth rates of index positions and managed-money spread positions had the largest impacts on futures prices.
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