From Boom to Bust: A Typology of Real Commodity Prices in the Long Run
NBER Working Paper No. 18874
This paper considers the evidence on real commodity prices over 160 years for 30 commodities representing 7.89 trillion USD worth of production in 2011. In so doing, it suggests and documents a complete typology of real commodity prices, comprising long-run trends, medium-run cycles, and short-run boom/bust episodes. The findings of the paper can be summarized as follows: real commodity prices of both energy and non-energy commodities have been on the rise from 1950 across all weighting schemes; there is a consistent pattern, in both past and present, of commodity price super-cycles which entail decades-long positive deviations from these long-run trends with the latest set of super-cycles likely at their peak; these commodity price super-cycles are punctuated by booms and busts which are historically pervasive and becoming more exacerbated over time. These last elements of boom and bust are also found to be particularly bearing in determining real commodity price volatility as well as potentially bearing in influencing growth in commodity exporting economies.
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