Commodity Storage under Backwardation: Does the Working Curve Still Work?

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We investigate storage in the presence of backwardation and the existence of the Working curve for Chicago Board of Trade corn, soybeans, and wheat markets and the Kansas City Board of Trade wheat market using 1990–2010 data. Two spread measures—the futures-spot and futures-futures—are matched with deliverable stocks on the first Friday of delivery. To account for grade and location aggregation issues, the futures-spot spreads are measured using the lowest spot bid and highest futures price. Storage in the presence of backwardation is pervasive both in terms of the percentage of observations and the magnitude of the stockholdings. The Working curve emerges most clearly in KCBT wheat and soybeans. Convenience yield is also supported by the negligible holdings of delivery shipping certificates in backwardations. Overall, the results show that the Working curve does indeed still work today. When evaluating policy proposals to deal with heightened price volatility in agricultural markets it is important that models incorporate this well-established relationship.

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