Determinants of Natural Resource Prices in the Short and Long Run

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1 DISS. ETH NO Determinants of Natural Resource Prices in the Short and Long Run A dissertation submitted to ETH ZURICH for the degree of Doctor of Sciences presented by LISA LEINERT Dipl. Volkswirt, University of Konstanz accepted on the recommendation of Prof. Dr. Lucas Bretschger Prof. Dr. Massimo Filippini 2012

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3 Thesis Summary From an economic perspective, natural resources take on two main functions. On the one hand, they are used as an essential input factor for many production processes all over the world. On the other hand, natural resources are traded on financial markets as an own investment class. The necessity of understanding the price formation originates from these two functions: it is important to learn how the price development of natural resources interacts with the overall economic performance. Furthermore, derivatives written on natural resources serve as an investment as well as risk management tool. On top, prices in derivative markets feed back into the real economy. This thesis empirically explores specific determinants of natural resource prices, related to different branches of theoretical economic research. The academic interest for understanding natural resource prices has mainly developed along these two functions of natural resources: Price formation of a natural resource as an investment vehicle is investigated in the economic field of Financial Markets Theory. The Financial Markets Theory focusses on the price interdependencies between spot and futures markets. The formation of natural resource prices in the context of the real economy is mainly investigated in the macroeconomic discipline. Within the field, one branch concentrates on explaining the interrelations of the price of a natural resource and the business cycle, naturally focussing on a short- to medium term; price dynamics over the entire life cycle of a resource and its implications for economic growth are at the heart of the second branch, Resource Economics. All three sub-disciplines have a focus on different price determinants.

4 XII SUMMARY Chapter 1 can be allocated to the Financial Markets Theory and investigates whether informational frictions are a component of expected risk premia in commodity futures markets. In line with theory (Hirshleifer, 1988), we find that informational frictions are a compensated risk factor in commodity futures markets. In addition, there is evidence that the risk premium increases due to a change in speculator s risk taking capacity. Chapter 2 contributes to the discussion on reasons for the recent and historically unparalleled price increase in commodity markets. Exemplary for the case of crude oil, we investigate in a structural VAR model the role of each market force - supply, demand or precautionary market activities - for the most recent price increase. We find that while fundamental demand has contributed to some extent to the price increase in the crude oil market, precautionary market activities have played a far larger role. Chapter 3 relates to the Resource Economics discipline and investigates whether resource scarcity is a price determinant of the non-renewable resource crude oil as hypothesized by Hotelling (1931). We investigate the price adjustment of crude oil to so-called Giant- oil field discoveries, taken as example of sudden shifts in resource scarcity. We find that the price of crude oil adjusts as projected in a standard Hotelling model. Chapter 4 is part of the Resource Economics discipline. It sheds light on the old theoretical result that taxes on non-renewable resources are used as a strategic device to increase national welfare (Bergstrom, 1982). As welfare improvements through taxes become effective only through a manipulation of the world price, taxes may also be viewed as a price determinant of the observed oil price. In a theoretical model and its empirical test we show that strategic considerations play a role for the taxation of crude oil. Summarizing, this thesis empirically confirms the existence of various determinants of natural resource prices, proposed by economic theory.

5 Kurzfassung Aus ökonomischer Sicht haben natürliche Ressourcen hauptsächlich zwei Funktionen. Zum einen werden sie als Inputfaktoren für Produktionsprozesse auf der ganzen Welt verwendet. Zum anderen werden natürliche Ressourcen als Anlageprodukte auf Finanzmärkten gehandelt. Die Notwendigkeit das Zustandekommen von Preisen für natürliche Ressourcen zu verstehen kann durch diese zwei Funktionen motiviert werden: es ist einerseits von Bedeutung, die Interaktionen von Preisen und gesamtwirtschaftlicher Entwicklung zu verstehen. Andererseits ist die derivative Preisbildung auf Finanzmärkten für Investitionen als auch für das Risikomanagement von Produzenten von Bedeutung. Die vorliegende Dissertation testet empirisch die Existenz von Preisdeterminanten, die aus der ökonomischen Theorie hervorgegangen sind. Die Determinanten stammen dabei aus jeweils unterschiedlichen Teilgebieten der ökonomischen Forschung zu natürlichen Ressourcen. Die ökonomische Forschung zum Verständnis der Formation natürlicher Ressourcenpreise hat sich entlang der beiden Funktionen entwickelt: Die Preisbildung natürlicher Ressourcen als Anlageinstrumente wird in der Finanzmarkttheorie untersucht. Die Preisbildung natürlicher Ressourcen im Kontext der realwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung wird in der Disziplin der Makroökonomie untersucht. Innerhalb dieser Disziplin wird unterschieden zwischen der Preisbildung im Rahmen von Konjunkturschwankungen und der Preisbildung über den gesamten Lebenszyklus einer Ressource. Letztere ist dem Gebiet der Ressourcenökonomie zuzurechnen. Alle drei Sub-Disziplinen unterscheiden sich

6 XIV KURZFASSUNG hinsichtlich der Fristigkeit der Determinanten, die wichtig für die Preisentwicklung natürlicher Ressourcen sind. Kapitel 1 ist der Finanzmarkttheorie zuzuordnen und untersucht, inwiefern Informationsfriktionen eine Rolle für die Bildung von Risikoprämien auf Rohstoffmärkten spielen. Die empirische Studie kann die theoretischen Prognosen sowohl im Hinblick auf ihren Einfluss auf die Bildung von Risikoprämien in Futuresmärkten, als auch im Hinblick auf die Veränderung der Risikobereitschaft der Spekulanten bestätigen. Kapitel 2 trägt zur aktuellen Diskussion der Ursachen des historisch einmaligen Preisanstiegs auf Rohstoffmärkten bei. Sie nimmt eine makroökonomische Perspektive ein. Auf Basis zentraler Erweiterungen bestehender ökonometrischer Schätzungen finden wir, dass nicht die Fundamentalnachfrage der Treiber des Preisanstiegs auf dem Ölmarkt war. Vielmehr spielen antizipative Käufe auf dem Ölmarkt eine wichtige Rolle für die Preisbildung. Kapitel 3 widmet sich einer zentralen Frage in der Ressourcenökonomie. Es untersucht, inwiefern die Knappheit der endlichen Ressource Öl eine Rolle für die Preisbildung spielt. Die Untersuchung wird exemplarisch am Beispiel von Ölfeld-Entdeckungen durchgeführt, die zu einer spontanen Neubewertung der Knappheit und damit einer entsprechenden Preisanpassung führen sollten. Wir finden, dass die Preisanpassung der theoretischen Erwartung entspricht. Kapitel 4 ist ebenfalls dem Gebiet der Ressourcenökonomie zuzuordnen. Es geht der Frage nach, inwieweit Steuern auf nicht-erneuerbare Ressourcen strategisch zur Erhöhung der inländischen Wohlfahrt eingesetzt werden. Da die Wohlfahrtssteigerung nur über eine Verschiebung des Weltmarktpreises wirksam werden, tragen Steuern möglicherweise zur Bildung des Weltmarktpreises von Erdöl bei. Anhand eines theoretischen Modells und seiner empirischen Überprüfung wird gezeigt, dass strategische Überlegungen die Besteuerung von Öl beeinflusst und damit relevant für die Preisbildung am Ölmarkt sind. Diese Dissertation bestätigt damit empirisch die Existenz verschiedener Preisdeterminanten, die in der ökonomischen Theorie etabliert wurden.

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