Because commodity prices help determine Canada’s terms of trade, employment, income and, ultimately, inflation, it is important to understand what causes them to fluctuate. Since the early 1900s, there have been four commodity price supercycles—which we define as extended periods of boom and bust that can take decades to complete. Now in its downswing phase, the current supercycle started after growth in China and other emerging-market economies in the mid-1990s resulted in an unexpected demand shock. The extent of this downswing depends on numerous factors that are presently uncertain.
In the second half of 2014, oil prices experienced a sharp decline, falling more than 50 per cent between June 2014 and January 2015. A cursory glance at this oil price crash suggests similarities to developments in 1986, when the price of oil declined by more than 50 per cent, initiating an episode of relatively low oil prices that lasted for more than a decade.
We analyze data from 2005 through 2009 that uniquely identify categories of traders to assess how speculators such as hedge funds and swap dealers relate to volatility and price changes. Examining various subperiods where price trends are strong, we find little evidence that speculators destabilize financial markets.
Commodity-equity and cross-commodity return co-movements rose dramatically after the 2008 financial crisis. This development took place following what has been dubbed the “financialization” of commodity markets.