The Interaction of Speculators and Index Investors in Agricultural Derivatives Markets
58 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2013 Last revised: 30 Dec 2013
Date Written: March 18, 2013
Through the analysis of the weekly CFTC reports on 12 US traded agricultural commodities, we revisit the heated debate on the impact of index flows on commodities prices. After introducing a novel stock-to-use proxy that may be used to represent inventory variations at the intra-month level, we show that speculators, contrary to index investors, are sensitive to commodity-specific fundamental information. Their endogeneity to commodities markets hinders the estimation of their market impact. Regarding the market impact of index flows, the endogeneity problem is alleviated in two ways: first, we restrict the scope to agricultural commodities, for which index flows are more exogenous to market prices; second, we introduce two novel instrumental variables that are computed from index flows outside the market under analysis. We find that index investment flows are offset by commercial players, not speculators. The serial correlation of index flows may explain the tendency of speculators to synchronize with index investors. There is strong evidence of an index flows’ impact in those commodities markets where speculative and index positions are the most correlated. The market impact of index flows is located in periods of liquidity stress, as is the correlation between speculative and index positions. Overall, our results demonstrate an impact of index investors on some agricultural prices and suggest that the synchronicity between speculative and index positions is an important determinant of this impact.
Keywords: index investors, hedge funds, agricultural markets, trend-following
JEL Classification: Q14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation