Commodity index investment and food prices: Does the "masters hypothesis" explain recent price spikes?

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The "Masters Hypothesis" is the claim that unprecedented buying pressure in recent years from commodity index investors created massive bubbles in food and energy prices. The purpose of this article is to review the evidence from recent studies that investigate the empirical relationship between index investment and price movements in agricultural futures markets. One line of research uses time-series regression tests, such as Granger causality tests, to investigate the relationship between price movements and index positions. This research provides little evidence in support of the Masters Hypothesis in agricultural futures markets. A second line of research uses cross-sectional regression tests and studies in this area provide very limited evidence in favor of the Masters Hypothesis for agricultural futures markets. A third line of research investigates whether there is a significant relationship between commodity index trading and the difference, or spread, between futures prices of different contract maturities on the same date. These studies report a range of results depending on the type of test. However, the bulk of the evidence indicates either no relationship or a negative relationship, which is once again inconsistent with the Masters Hypothesis. Overall, this growing body of literature fails to find compelling evidence that buying pressure from commodity index investment in recent years caused a massive bubble in agricultural futures prices. The Masters Hypothesis is simply not a valid characterization of reality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalAgricultural Economics (United Kingdom)
Issue numberSUPPL1
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Agriculture
  • Commodity
  • Futures markets
  • Index investment
  • Masters hypothesis
  • Speculation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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