The Course of the US-China Trade War, Viewed through the Lens of Soybeans

Or, hope died in August 2018…

Figure 1: (Log) July 2019 soybean futures contract price minus spot price (blue). Source: and, and author’s calculations. Red dashed line at 7/12/2018, one year before expiration of July 2019 futures contract. Dates from Dezan Shira and Assoc.

Typically, the futures and spot should differ by cost of carry, but for soybean futures, but at the 3, 6 and 12 months horizons, the futures are an unbiased predictor of future spot rates (see Chinn and Coibion, 2014). Hence, the spread can (roughly) be interpreted as an estimate spot rate rising in the future, which is inversely proportional to the probability of a resolution of the US-China trade war (cost of carry is going to vary over the year, so the spread is only partly indicative).

For the course of the spot and July 2019 futures, see this post.

Predictions of Soybean Prices from One Year Ago

On July 9, 2018, reader CoRev disparages futures prices as accurate predictors of future spot prices for soybeans, writing:

no one has denied the impact of tariffs on FUTURES prices. Those of us arguing against the constant anti-tariff, anti-Trump dialogs have noted this will probably be a price blip lasting until US/Chinese negotiations end. We are on record saying the prices will be back approaching last year’s harvest season prices.

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Of Big Macs, PPP, the Penn Effect, and Currency Misalignment

From Anneken Tappe in CNNBusiness:

The Economist’s Big Mac Index — a lighthearted way to make the value of currencies more tangible — showed that nearly all currencies in the index are undervalued against the dollar.

The Big Mac Index, released Wednesday, is rooted in the theory of purchasing power parity: Exchange rates reflect the value of goods a currency can buy. If currency X can buy an item at a lower price than currency Y, then currency X may be comparatively undervalued and currency Y could be overvalued.

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To Worry or Not To Worry: Adjusted and Unadjusted Spreads

Torsten Sløk at Deutsche Bank had an interesting commentary [not online] this morning, noting the disjuncture between the different estimates of estimated term premia from affine (no arbitrage) models of the term structure emanating from the NY and SF Feds. I adjust the term spread by the term premium from SF and show the implied probability of recession, alongside that from the conventional 10yr-3mo.

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Guest Contribution: “A Blockchain solution for the technology war between China and the US “

Today we are pleased to present a guest contribution by Alessandro Rebucci, of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. This post is based on “Blockchain Technology and Government Applications: A Proposal for a Global Patent Office” (with E. Di Nicola Carena and P. La Mura), in A. Fatás (editor), The Economics of Fintech and Digital Currencies, CEPR ebook, Fintech and Digital Currencies Policy and Research Network, CEPR March 2019.

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Exchange Rates: Some Recent Papers

I’ve spent the last week at the NBER’s Summer Institute, attending sessions on International Finance and Macro, International Asset Pricing, and International Trade and Macro (among others)…Here are some interesting/provocative exchange rate papers I saw presented (if off the list, I might’ve missed the paper’s presentation). Other interesting papers in a near-future post.

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Using Survey Expectations in FX Analyses

At the NBER IFM Summer Institute session on exchange rates yesterday, the debate over the use of survey data rekindled. In Exchange Rate and Interest Rate Disconnect, Şebnem Kalemli-Özcan and Liliana Varela used survey data on exchange rate depreciation. The discussant Adrian Verdelhan (MIT) and audience members questioned whether such data actually measured what we thought they measured market expectations.

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