Keynes’s Personal Investments in the Wheat Futures Markets, 1925-1935

Foresti, Tiziana and Sanfilippo, Eleonora. 2017. Keynes’s Personal Investments in the Wheat Futures Markets, 1925-1935. History of Economic Ideas, XXV(2), ISSN 1724-2169 [Article]

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The present article contributes to the strand of recent literature devoted to reconstruction of John Maynard Keynes’s operations in commodity markets, currencies and stock exchange markets. Specifically, our work offers, for the first time, a comprehensive account of Keynes’s personal dealings in wheat futures in the market places of Winnipeg, Chicago and Liverpool in the years from 1925 to 1935. Our reconstruction of Keynes’s trading activity benefits from archival research at King’s College (Cambridge, uk) where the Keynes Papers are kept. Moreover, in order to form a full picture of the markets in which Keynes was operating we reconstructed the historical series of spot and future prices. The result marks an advance in thorough examination of Keynes’s speculative style in a complex international environment, as was the wheat futures market in the interwar period. One of the main findings of the article is the fact that Keynes adopted a completely different strategy when operating on the North-American markets in the 1920s from the approach he followed trading on the Liverpool market in the 1930s. In the former case he tried to anticipate reversal in the price trend, aiming at ‘beating the market’ and acting prevalently as a short-term investor. In the latter, he followed a long-term roll-over strategy (that is, with renewal of long positions) more consistent with his own theoretical representation of the speculator as a «risk-bearer» (Keynes 1923). Our reconstruction of Keynes’s operations in the wheat futures markets constitute further confirmation of the view – shared in the literature (Chambers and Dimson 2013, Marcuzzo and Sanfilippo 2016) – that a change occurred in Keynes’s speculative style (both in stocks and in commodities) around the beginning of the 1930s, when he abandoned a short-term type investment behaviour in favour of a long-term investor perspective.

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Institute of Management Studies



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Date Deposited:

12 Sep 2019 15:28

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13 Sep 2019 16:45

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