Feed Outlook No. (FDS-09G-01) 44 pp

August 2009

Issues and Prospects in Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat Futures Markets

The past 5 years have seen large increases in trading of corn, soybean, and wheat futures contracts by nontraditional traders, a trend that coincided with historic price increases for these commodities. These events have raised questions about whether changes in the composition of traders participating have contributed to movements in commodity prices beyond the effects of market fundamentals. Evidence suggests the link between futures and cash prices for some commodity markets may have weakened (poor convergence), making it more difficult for traditional traders to use futures markets to manage risk. This report discusses the role and objective of new futures traders compared with those of traditional futures traders and seeks to determine if the composition of traders in futures markets has contributed to convergence problems. Market activity is analyzed by focusing on positions of both traditional and new market traders, price levels, price volatility, and volume and open interest trends. Convergence of futures and cash prices is examined, along with implications and prospects for risk management by market participants. The report also discusses the implications for market performance and the regulatory response of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Keywords: Corn, soybeans, wheat, futures, liquidity, volatility, speculators, index traders, hedgers, prices, basis, convergence, market performance

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