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Abstract

This study uses the newly available data from the CFTC to investigate the market impact of futures trading by large hedge funds and CTAs. Regression results show that there is a positive relationship between the trading volume of large hedge funds and CTAs and market volatility. However, a positive relationship between hedge fund and CTA trading volume and market volatility is consistent with either a private information or noise trader hypothesis. Three additional tests are conducted to distinguish between the private information hypothesis and the noise trader hypothesis. The first test consisted of identifying the noise component exhibited in return variances over different holding periods. The variance ratio tests provide little support for the noise trader hypothesis. The second test examined whether positive feedback trading characterized large hedge fund and CTA trading behavior. These results suggest that trading decisions by large hedge funds and CTAs, although influenced in small part by past price changes, are not driven by past price changes. The third test consists of estimating the profits and losses associated with the open interest positions of large hedge funds and CTAs. This test is based on the argument that speculative trading can only be destabilizing if speculators buy when prices are high and sell when prices are low, which in turn, implies that destabilizing speculators lose money. Across all thirteen markets, the profit for large hedge funds and CTAs is estimated to be just under $400 million. This implies that the trading decisions are likely based on valuable private information. Overall, the evidence presented in this study suggests trading by large hedge funds and CTAs is based on private fundamental information. These findings imply large hedge funds and CTAs benefit market efficiency by bringing valuable, fundamental information to the market through their trading.

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