Information, volatility and price discovery in oil futures markets
This thesis presents four related empirical essays which investigate the role of information in crude oil futures markets. The first line of investigation examines the impact of futures trading on spot price volatility and finds that the nature of spot price volatility is affected by derivative trading and the improvements in information discovery which such trading brings. Second, the efficiency of futures markets is examined with respect to their ability to provide unbiased estimates of future spot prices. Here it is concluded that while unbiased estimates are generally provided in the long-term, they tend to be largely biased over the short-term. The third area of investigation looks at the relative ability of contemporaneous spot and futures prices to discover information, where it is found that futures generally exhibit price discovery over spot markets but that the relationship can vary considerably over time and in relation to market conditions. In addition, the investigation suggests that previous studies into such relationships have failed to account for all routes through which information passes between spot and futures markets. Finally the thesis probes the question of the relationship within futures markets between volume, volatility and information. The finding is' that futures markets' prices and trading volume exhibit a positive relation and are jointly driven by the rate of information arrival. The results further suggest that the widely held expectation that volume statistics can improve forecasts of future price change does not hold in the case of oil futures. The overall finding of the thesis is that oil futures markets are well-functioning and in general are of benefit to the underlying spot market.