Many oil industry analysts believe that there is predictive power in the product spread, defined as the difference between suitably weighted refined product market prices and the price of crude oil. We derive a number of alternative forecasting model specifications based on product spreads and compare the implied forecasts to the no-change forecast of the real price of oil. We show that not all product spread models are useful for out-of-sample forecasting, but some models are, even at horizons between one and two years. The most accurate model is a time-varying parameter model of gasoline and heating oil spot price spreads that allows for structural change in product markets. We document mean-squared prediction error reductions as high as 20% and directional accuracy as high as 63% at the two-year horizon, making product spread models a good complement to forecasting models based on economic fundamentals, which work best at short horizons.
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