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Abstract

This article presents a method for measuring the functional efficiency of agricultural futures markets in terms of social welfare using a standard futures market structural model. Employing the concept of social surplus, it can be shown that, when futures prices are used to estimate future spot prices, the errors in prediction produce to some degree resource misallocation, which in turn results in welfare losses. Therefore, the social welfare associated with the presence of futures markets can be measured using a Social Loss index. The indicator was calculated for the period 1975–2015 and for several subperiods, which allow us to analyse functional efficiency before and after the 2007–2008 spikes in the prices of agricultural commodities. Futures contracts for 12 products are evaluated. The products are grouped in three different categories: ‘soft products’, ‘livestock’ and ‘grains and oilseeds’. The results indicate that livestock contracts tended to be more efficient than the rest of the contracts during the whole period, but in 2008–2015 their efficiency decreased vis-a-vis the rest of the products. Nevertheless, 2008–2015 proved to be the most efficient subperiod, confirming the remarkable development of agricultural futures markets over time.

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