500 Year Commodity Index

Posted by Barry Ritholtz - The Big Picture

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The Big Picture shows The CRB Index going all the back to the year 1,450 – courtesy of Bianco Research

About now, you may be saying to yourself, “How on earth could anyone find this ancient data — and can it possibly be accurate?”

The answers might surprise you:

The chart uses the following series (plotted monthly):

• 1749 to date: The Wholesale Price Index (now called the Producer Price Index) as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• 1749 to 1861: Statistical Tables of Commodity Prices from: Wholesale Commodity Prices in the
United States, 1700 to 1861, by Arthur Harrison Cole (Harvard University Press, 1938)

• 1749 to 1932: The Warren And Pearson Index of Commodity prices in New York, by George F. Warren and Frank A. Pearson (Wiley, 1933)

• 1782 to 1820: Jeavons Index compiled in 1865

• 1821 to 1929: Sauerback-Statist Index of Commodities in England The following commodity prices (start date): Gold and Silver (1749), Platinum (1938), Copper (1784), Crude Oil (1859), Heating
Oil (1923), Gasoline (1920), Lumber (1890), Wheat (1749), Corn (1749), Soybeans (1914), Cattle
(1749), Hogs (1749) and Pork Bellies (1949).

• 1956/57 to date: The monthly average of CRB BRIDGE futures index as calculated by the Commodity Research Bureau.

• 1450 to 1956: A “Reversed Engineered” CRB using the wholesale/Producer Price Index and 11
commodities as calculated by the Foundation For The Study Of Cycles. (The correlation between
this index and the “real” CRB BRIDGE since 1957 is well over 95%).

Much of this data is available from: The Foundation For The Study Of Cycles.

And yes, it seems to be fairly accurate.


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