Until the mid-90s, the more active among the Brussels-listed stocks were traded in parallel segments: "spot" (that is, with t + 3 settlement) and "forward" (with periodic settlement at the end of a two- or three-week period). The forward market was cheaper, deeper, unhampered
by price limits, convenient also for shortsales, and played by the pros; so it looks likely to be the more efficient tier. Yet a simple variance comparison, after correcting for settlement effects,finds no such effect; in fact, the forward market may actually have been the more noisy one.
Going on to the issue of price discovery, which is a more formal way of testing whether the forward market is less noisy, we extend the Margrabe-Silber price-discovery model to take into account the asynchronism in the opening forward and spot prices. Although the presence of the latent true morning return in our extended model precludes us from estimating explicitly the price adjustment coefficients, we can still identify the sign of the estimated difference of these coefficients and the lower and upper bounds of its t-statistic. This information enables us to conclude on the significance of the test. Also, our results reject the potential price discoverer
status of the forward market: spot prices seem more informative than forward prices. This result raises the issue of how far the financial markets perform their central function of price discovery and how far the conventional wisdom can be trusted (e.g. the more trading volume the less noise the observed price contains).