A meta-verdict on commodity speculation

A new OECD meta-study has concluded that financial investors (a.k.a. the dreaded "speculators") were not largely responsible for commodity price run-ups in 2008. The two main arguments will be familiar to regular readers.
Higher futures prices could have sent a signal to commodity producers, who then decided to hoard their stocks rather than sell them in the cash market. The shortage might then have pushed spot prices higher. The evidence, however, is that inventories were falling, not rising.

An even more telling argument is that commodities without futures markets (apples, edible beans) or futures markets where index funds did not get involved (milk, rice) also saw price rises during 2006-08. Nor was there any correlation between the size of index funds in particular commodities and the price rise for those raw materials.
The study also draws the intuitive conclusion that larger financial participation probably lowered volatility, rather than raising it.

From the Economist (subscription required).

P.S. The same issue has a number of good pieces (all subscription required) on topics like Zimbabwe's Marange diamond field (prior to latest Kimberley ruling), the success of environmental activists in influencing the palm oil supply chain, and how chimps go to war over land rather than females.

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