Commodities - November 26, 2008

Oil Prices: the True Role of Speculation

To analyse the significant variations in oil prices over the past year, EDHEC have produced a new position paper entitled "Oil Prices: the True Role of Speculation," which argues that, despite the appeal of blaming speculators, supply-and-demand imbalances, the fall in the dollar and low spare capacity in the oil-producing countries were the major causes of the initial sharp rise.

It also identifies many of the excessively opaque facets of the world oil markets and argues that greater transparency would enable policymakers to make sound economic decisions. Oil futures markets are shown to contribute to the greater transparency of oil markets in general.

However, as the paper shows, futures trading can have short-term effects on commodity prices. In general, it is nearly impossible to pinpoint a single cause for recent oil price movements; indeed, an overview of the geopolitics of the major producing regions underscores the complexity of attempts to do so and points to a multiplicity of structural causes for what this paper—recent falls in oil prices notwithstanding—terms the third oil shock.

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