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Commodity Futures

These entries address investing and trading in commodities and commodity futures as an alternative asset class to equities.

Exploiting Commodity “Yield Curves”

Is there information useful to investors in the “yield curves” of commodity futures? In their December 2009 paper entitled “Structural Properties of Commodity Futures Term Structures and Their Implications for Basic Trading Strategies”, Rolf Duerr and Matthias Voegeli investigate the informativeness of price progressions across commodity futures contracts with different maturities (term structures or yield curves) over rolling 12-month windows. Specifically, they focus on trading commodity futures contracts based on the current slopes of these curves and on the stabilities of the shapes of the curves over time (slope and curvature). Using weekly closing settlement prices for 23 energy, metals, agriculture and livestock commodities spanning January 1998 through July 2009, they find that: Keep Reading

Analysis of Managed Futures?

A reader suggested: “CXOadvisory.com has a few articles on managed futures, but not a full analysis of claims such as those in the CME Group brochure “Managed Futures: Portfolio Diversification Opportunities”, which states that managed futures provide gains in all environments and with smaller drawdowns.” Keep Reading

Unfooled by Randomness?

Can people reliably distinguish between actual financial markets time series and randomized data? In the February 2010 draft of their paper entitled “Is It Real, or Is It Randomized?: A Financial Turing Test”, Jasmina Hasanhodzic, Andrew Lo and Emanuele Viola report the results of a web-based experiment designed to test the ability of people to distinguish between time series of returns for eight commonly traded financial assets (including stock indexes, a bond index, currencies and commodities, all given names of animals) and randomized data. Using a sample of 8015 guesses from 78 participants over eight contests conducted during 2009, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Success Factors for Futures Traders

Does the profitability of futures traders depend on risk-taking, private information or luck? In the January 2010 revision of their paper entitled “Determinants of Trading Profits of Individual Traders: Risk Premia or Information”, Michaël Dewally, Louis Ederington and Chitru Fernando investigate success factors for traders in the crude oil, gasoline and heating oil futures markets. They exploit detailed daily open interest data for specific large and mid-size traders (from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as augmented by the Department of Energy) accounting for about 70% to 80% of these three futures markets. This detailed data enables analytical segmentation of traders into eleven types, consolidated into four categories: (1) hedgers, (2) speculators, (3) market makers and (4) others. Using detailed data for a final sample of 382 traders over the period June 1993 through March 1997 (46 months), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Using Commitments of Traders Reports to Time Asset Allocations

Is the aggregate sentiment of futures traders predictive for asset returns? In the June 2008 update of their paper entitled “How to Time the Commodity Market”, Devraj Basu, Roel Oomen and Alexander Stremme investigate whether information in the weekly Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Commitments of Traders (COT) reports enable successful timing of U.S. equities and commodities markets. These reports aggregate the size and direction of the positions taken by different categories of futures traders in different assets. “Commercial” traders use futures contracts for hedging, “non-commercial” traders use them for other types of speculation and “non-reportable” traders operate below the reporting threshold. The study seeks to exploit “hedging pressure” (the fraction of positions that are long) for each of six liquid commodities (crude oil, gold, silver, copper, soybeans and sugar) and for the S&P 500 Index. Each Friday, the six trading strategies studied: (1) take a long position in a commodity if hedging pressure for both the commodity and the S&P 500 Index are below their 52-week averages; or, (2) take a long position in the S&P 500 Index if hedging pressure for both the commodity and the S&P 500 Index are above their 52-week averages; or, (3) hold 3-month U.S. Treasury bills. Using COT reports and associated weekly futures prices for October 1992 through December 2006, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Hedging Against Inflation

How can long-term investors best hedge against inflation’s erosion of purchasing power? In their April 2009 paper entitled “Inflation Hedging for Long-Term Investors”, Alexander Attie and Shaun Roache assess the inflation hedging properties of traditional asset classes over different investment horizons. Using total return indexes for several asset classes from initial data availability (January 1927 at the earliest) through November 2008, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Ever Looked at the EIA STEO?

A reader asked: “Have you ever undertaken a study of the EIA Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) or other EIA forecasts to evaluate the degree of accuracy one could reasonably expect from them?” Keep Reading

Hedging/Speculative Pressure and Commodity Futures Returns

Do commodity hedgers offer a reliable risk premium to speculators via commodity futures? In other words, can commodity futures traders generate dependable returns by trading against the net position of hedgers and with the net position of speculators as summarized in the weekly Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Commitments of Traders (COT) reports? In the February 2009 version of their paper entitled “The Performance of Simple Dynamic Commodity Strategies”, Devraj Basu and Joelle Miffre construct real-time trading strategies based on the aggregate positions of hedgers and speculators for liquid commodity futures. They test the relative informativeness of hedgers and speculators and the effectiveness of applying active strategies to commodities that are backwardated (positive roll return) and contangoed (negative roll return). Using Wednesday closing prices on near-maturity contracts for 13 commodities (identified on the chart below) and weekly COT hedgers/speculators position data over the period 1994-2006 (1999-2006 for corn), they find that: Keep Reading

Combining Momentum and Roll Return Signals for Commodity Futures

Does combining two commodity futures trading signals shown to be effective in prior research, momentum and roll return (term structure), improve on both? In the May 2008 version of their paper entitled “Tactical Allocation in Commodity Futures Markets: Combining Momentum and Term Structure Signals”, Ana-Maria Fuertes, Joelle Miffre and Georgios Rallis measure the combined value of momentum and roll return signals in the design of commodity futures trading strategies. They test combinations that iteratively buy backwardated (positive roll return) winners and short contangoed (negative roll return) losers. Using daily closing prices on the nearby, second nearby and distant contracts for 37 commodities as available over the period January 1979 through January 2007, they find that: Keep Reading

Effects of Macroeconomic News on Commodity Futures

Do commodity futures prices react systematically to news about the overall U.S. economy? If so, how might investors/traders exploit the reactions? In their March 2008 working paper entitled “How Do Commodity Futures Respond to Macroeconomic News?”, Dieter Hess, He Huang and Alexandra Niessen investigate the impact of surprises in 17 U.S. macroeconomic indicators on two broad commodity futures indexes: (1) the equally-weighted CRB Index, and (2) the production-weighted S&P GSCI Commodity Index. Using macroeconomic news reports (surprise components), contemporaneous daily commodity index prices and various measures of the economic cycle over the period 1989 to 2005, they conclude that: Keep Reading

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