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Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, Ms. Yan M Sun, Ms. Evridiki Tsounta, and Mr. Niklas J Westelius

For the latest thinking about the international financial system, monetary policy, economic development, poverty reduction, and other critical issues, subscribe to Finance & Development (F&D). This lively quarterly magazine brings you in-depth analyses of these and other subjects by the IMF’s own staff as well as by prominent international experts. Articles are written for lay readers who want to enrich their understanding of the workings of the global economy and the policies and activities of the IMF.

International Monetary Fund
This paper discusses the behavior of futures prices for foreign exchange in Brazil during a period of high inflation and successive stabilization attempts (1989-92). After testing for futures prices unbiasedness and predicability by applying the Generalized Method of Moments, the paper argues that the finding of excess returns may be viewed as a rational response to the frequent and unpredictable changes in the exchange rate policy during that period. This response could reflect (i) an informational problem where the exchange rate policy is assumed to be unknown; or, (ii) a “peso” problem of rational (under) overprediction where the futures bias is the market response to the known policy of infrequent large nominal devaluations. The second line of explanation is suggested by conditioning the probability distribution of the excess return of futures contracts on the event of a major devaluation.
JONATHAN D. OSTRY and JOAQUIM LEVY

The household saving ratio in France underwent sharp changes over the past two decades, falling dramatically in the early 1980s before rising more recently. This paper emphasizes two factors in the evolution of private saving in France. The first relates to perceptions of household income growth and uncertainty, which have likely been affected by deteriorating labor market conditions and may therefore help account for the recent increase in saving. The second relates to financial deregulation, which may have lowered saving and increased its sensitivity to interest rate changes. Both have played some role in the evolution of French household saving.

Mr. Joaquim Vieira Ferreira Levy and Mr. Jonathan David Ostry
The household saving ratio in France has undergone very sharp changes over the past two decades, falling dramatically in the first part of the 1980s before rising in more recent years. This paper emphasizes two factors in the evolution of private saving in France. The first relates to perceptions of household income growth and uncertainty, which are likely to have been affected by deteriorating labor market conditions, and which may therefore help to account for the recent increase in saving. The second factor relates to financial deregulation which may have lowered saving and increased its sensitivity to interest rate changes. It is argued that both factors have played some role in the evolution of French household saving.
LOUIS O. SCOTT

Prices in futures and options markets reflect expectations about future price movements in spot markets, but these prices can also be influenced by risk premia. Futures and forward prices are sometimes interpreted as market expectations for future spot prices, and option prices are used to calculate the market’s expectations for future volatility of spot prices. Do these prices accurately reflect market expectations? The information that is reflected in futures prices and option prices is examined in this paper through a review of both the relevant analytical models and the empirical evidence. [JEL G13, G12, G14]

Louis O. Scott
Prices in futures markets and option markets reflect expectations about future price movements in spot markets, but these prices can also be influenced by risk premia. Futures and forward prices are sometimes interpreted as market expectations for future spot prices, and option prices are used to calculate the market’s expectations for future volatility of spot prices. Do these prices accurately reflect market expectations? The purpose of this paper is to examine the information that is reflected in futures prices and option prices. The issue is examined by reviewing both the relevant analytical models and the empirical evidence.
Graciela Laura Kaminsky and Mr. Manmohan S. Kumar
This paper undertakes an econometric investigation into the presence of risk premium in commodity futures markets. The statistical tests are derived from a formal model of asset pricing and are applied to futures prices in a variety of commodity markets. The results suggest that for several commodities there is evidence of a time varying risk premium, particularly in futures contracts maturing six months ahead. The implications of the study for the efficiency of the futures markets and the costs of using these markets for hedging are also noted.
GRACIELA KAMINSKY and MANMOHAN S. KUMAR

An econometric investigation is undertaken into the efficiency of commodity futures markets. Despite considerable empirical literature, there is no consensus on whether or not the markets are efficient. This study suggests that for certain commodities expected excess returns to futures speculation are nonzero. However, these results do not necessarily imply that agents do not act rationally. The implications for the cost of using the futures market for hedging and for the power of futures prices to forecast future spot prices are also noted.

International Monetary Fund
The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.