Are Product Spreads Useful for Forecasting? An Empirical Evaluation of the Verleger Hypothesis

40 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2013

See all articles by Christiane Baumeister

Christiane Baumeister

University of Notre Dame; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Lutz Kilian

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Xiaoqing Zhou

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Date Written: July 2013

Abstract

Notwithstanding a resurgence in research on out-of-sample forecasts of the price of oil in recent years, there is one important approach to forecasting the real price of oil which has not been studied systematically to date. This approach is based on the premise that demand for crude oil derives from the demand for refined products such as gasoline or heating oil. Oil industry analysts such as Philip Verleger and financial analysts widely believe that there is predictive power in the product spread, defined as the difference between suitably weighted refined product market prices and the price of crude oil. Our objective is to evaluate this proposition. We derive from first principles a number of alternative forecasting model specifications involving product spreads and compare these models to the no-change forecast of the real price of oil. We show that not all product spread models are useful for out-of-sample forecasting, but some models are, even at horizons between one and two years. The most accurate model is a time-varying parameter model of gasoline and heating oil spot spreads that allows the marginal product market to change over time. We document MSPE reductions as high as 20% and directional accuracy as high as 63% at the two-year horizon, making product spread models a good complement to forecasting models based on economic fundamentals, which work best at short horizons.

Keywords: acquisition cost, crack spread, forecast accuracy, futures, oil price, real-time data, refined products, WTI

JEL Classification: C53, G15, Q43

Suggested Citation

Baumeister, Christiane and Kilian, Lutz and Zhou, Xiaoqing, Are Product Spreads Useful for Forecasting? An Empirical Evaluation of the Verleger Hypothesis (July 2013). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP9572. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2297211

Christiane Baumeister (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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United Kingdom

Lutz Kilian

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
734-764-2320 (Phone)
734-764-2769 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Xiaoqing Zhou

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas ( email )

2200 North Pearl Street
PO Box 655906
Dallas, TX 75265-5906
United States

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