Terrorism and the Returns to Oil

Student Co-author

CMC Undergraduate

Document Type



Economics (CMC)

Publication Date



The effect of terrorism on global oil prices has been largely explained through demand-side effects. We estimate an empirical model to re-examine the effect of terrorism on the price of global oil stocks across oil market regimes that reflect different supply constraints. We believe that terrorism will have larger impacts when global capacity is tight (i.e. when global demand is close to global supply). This means that any shock to capacity (say by conflict) should have the largest impact on profits before the first OPEC shock in the early 1970s. Since then, conflict shocks would not allow firms to exploit production in the same way, thus reducing the available profits that could be garnered by such production manipulation. If capacity constraints are binding when a conflict occurs, then we predict that a positive stock price reaction can be expected for oil firms from such a shock. We exploit a new panel dataset to investigate the relationship between oil profitability and conflict, using conflict data from the top 20 oil producing and exporting countries in the world. We show that in the later part of our sample, 1974–2005, as cartel behavior of OPEC member countries has diminished and as conflict has become more regular and thus the information surrounding it noisier, oil stock prices do not increase in response to conflict. However, in earlier capacity constrained eras, we find that oil stocks can in fact increase in response to conflict. In some cases, the impact of conflict may cause the return of oil stocks to increase by as much as 10 percentage points.

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