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Investing in Crude Oil

Crude Oil is the world’s most heavily traded commodity. The volumes of trade in oil that flow daily through commodities exchanges dwarf those for other commodities. This is because buyers and sellers in the market include not only speculators, funds and investors but also oil producers and refiners who use futures to hedge their exposure -that is, cushion themselves from price swings by fixing prices three, six, twelve months or longer in advance. This has led to an efficient market, resulting in efficient pricing and narrow spreads on Bid/Ask prices.

Oil futures are traded on New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), which is the most liquid market for oil futures; the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the key oil exchange in Europe; the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) and the Tokyo Commodities Exchange (TOCOM).

Not all crude oils are created equal. They vary in quality based on their sulfur content and density. The most desirable crude oils are classified as “light and sweet,” containing a high proportion of fractions used to produce gasoline, kerosene, and diesel. The term “sweet” refers to oil with low sulfur content, which historically was determined by prospectors who would taste and smell the oil. Light and sweet crude oils are sought after due to their versatility and ease of refining into high-demand products

WTI’s nearest rival, Brent Crude oil, a type of oil from the North Sea traded on ICE in London, has risen fast and has become the key contract the industry will look at when trying to assess what the global price should be. You will often see both Brent and WTI quoted as spread bets or CFD markets.

The quality of crude oil varies from field to field, it is classified depending on how much sulphur it contains and how light or heavy it is. Crude oil is not used in its original form but is refined into products such as gasoline and kerosene, a fuel for planes, and distillates such as diesel and heating oil used to either power buses, trains and machinery or to heat building and fire industrial boilers.

CME Group’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is a light, sweet crude oil that serves as the benchmark for U.S. oil pricing. WTI futures are the most actively traded crude oil contracts on the NYMEX, with a high degree of liquidity. Until recently, WTI was considered the global benchmark for the oil industry. However, in recent years, WTI prices have diverged from global oil prices due to regional storage and transportation dynamics in the United States. Despite this, WTI remains a crucial reference point for the U.S. oil market and is widely used as an underlying asset for Contract for Differences and spread betting.

The price of crude oil is determined by a delicate balance between supply and demand factors, geopolitical events, and market sentiment. On the supply side, production decisions by major oil-exporting countries, particularly OPEC members, can significantly impact prices.

Disruptions to production, such as conflicts or infrastructure issues, can lead to supply shortages and higher prices. Demand is influenced by global economic growth and energy consumption patterns, with stronger economic expansion typically driving higher oil prices. Geopolitical events, like tensions between oil-producing nations or changes in trade policies, can introduce volatility.

Market sentiment and speculative activity also play a role in short-term price movements. Investors closely monitor data releases, such as weekly U.S. oil inventory reports, and adjust their positions based on expectations and market trends. Navigating the complex web of factors influencing crude oil prices is crucial for investors seeking to make informed decisions in this dynamic market.

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