Article first published online: 25th October 2018 DOI: 10.1111/jofi.12738
We introduce a return predictor related to the slope and curvature of the futures term structure: basis‐momentum. Basis‐momentum strongly outperforms benchmark characteristics in predicting commodity spot and term premiums in both the time series and the cross section. Exposure to basis‐momentum is priced among commodity‐sorted portfolios and individual commodities. We argue that basis‐momentum captures imbalances in the supply and demand of futures contracts that materialize when the market‐clearing ability of speculators and intermediaries is impaired, and that it represents compensation for priced risk. Our findings are inconsistent with alternative explanations based on storage, inventory, and hedging pressure.