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Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em. Instead of moaning about the Arabs, Chelsea tractors and Jeremy Clarkson why not thank them and learn how to make money out of the oil price? In this ‘Dummies guide to trading oil’ I’ll be having a look at the major ‘need to knows’ of the oil market, the mechanics of [a href="http://www.paddypowertrader.com/financial-spread-betting/traderacademy/about-markets.php" title="trading commodities]trading commodities[/a][/title] and what you need to watch out for. [b]This Price Is On Viagra[/b] On July 11th Crude Oil hit a new record high of just over $147 a barrel - an aweinspiring rise of 110% from last July. Over the same period the Dow fell by around 22%. This Tuesday (15th July) witnessed the biggest 1-day fall in oil for 18 years. Folks, this is a great traders’ market. [b]Spread Betting[/b] [a href="http://www.paddypowertrader.com/about-spread-betting.php" title="spread betting]Spread betting[/a][/title] pros, skip this bit and jump to the next section. For everyone else … If Carlsberg had been asked to come up with a way to trade it would have developed spread betting. Check out what it says on the tin: • There’s a huge range of easy to read instruments to trade in, including oil, gold and indices as well as shares. • Because of something called ‘leverage’ you can build a diversified portfolio with a relatively small amount of money and leave the rest in the bank. But be warned-leveraged trading carries a significant risk if you’re not careful. • You can go both ways. Forget all those nasty stories in the press; it’s legal and often very profitable to short (sell) the market. You can make money whether the market goes up or down. • There’s no charges, stamp duty or commission, only a dealing spread. • And get this; when you make a profit it’s TAX FREE. The only thing that’s missing is Kylie popping round with a pizza and your winnings. [b]How To Trade Oil Without Getting Dirty[/b] There are two contracts available, Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate: Brent Crude is the UK contract on oil sourced from the North Sea. And, hey! The UK might be crap at rugby, football, and cricket, but two thirds of the world’s internationally traded oil, from Europe, Africa and the Middle East, is priced relative to UK Brent Crude. In the big boys market Brent Crude is traded in London as something called Futures contracts, which are priced in US Dollars. West Texas Intermediate is the US equivalent to Brent Crude. Also known as US Light Sweet Crude (or any derivation of these words), this one is again traded as a Futures contract but in New York this time. Now, all you traders with enough balls and attention span to run your positions over a period of days and weeks, pay attention here. Oil spread bets are monthly contracts. This means that: a) You don’t pay any rollover charges; the bet will run until the contract ends. b) You do need to put a note on your Kylie Minogue calendar that the spread bet
runs out (expires) on a definite date. c) Now, get this. The spread bet runs out (contract expires) in the middle of the month before the month it says on the tin. So, for example, the Brent Crude October contract on paddypowertrader runs out (expires) on 13th September and the November contract finishes on the 12th October. How dumb is that? It smacks of interference from a country that already writes the date back to front. [b]What To Watch When Trading Oil[/b] Good news if you have the attention span of a goldfish; trading oil means watching lots of telly. Wu hoo! However you won’t get rich watching the Playboy channel, while repeats of Dallas on UK Gold might be good for motivation but not much else. Trading oil is very news-orientated so keep CNBC on 24/7. The most specific economic data to focus on are the US weekly oil and gas inventory figures, issued by the Energy Information Administration and released every week on Wednesday afternoons. If you trade oil you can’t afford to miss these. Being aware of the US Driving Season (apparently the land of the gas-guzzler has a particular season for driving, starting on Memorial Day at the end of May and finishing on Labour Day at the start of September) will definitely work in your favour, and also pay attention to cold winters when we all turn the heating up. Something that’s more important again is the US Hurricane Season, which officially runs from 1st June to 30th November, but don’t expect the forces of nature to pay too much attention to the dates. An average season has 11 named storms with six growing into hurricanes, but only two reach major hurricane status. So don’t go buying oil every time your weathercock spins round. So why is the hurricane season so significant to the oil market in particular? Hurricanes tend to hit the Gulf of Mexico, which is filled to the rafters with oilrigs (over 20 rigs went missing due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005). Next take a look at the world’s big oil producers. You won’t find oil gushing out of countries like Belgium, Holland or Sweden, where even mentioning their name is soporific. No, putting aside the comparatively stable USA and Saudi Arabia, God blessed the world’s more excitable countries with the power and wealth of massive oil supplies. A short roll call includes Iraq, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Venezuela and Russia, where a few well-chosen words from a president can send you sprinting to the ‘trade’ button. [b]Who Are The Big Swingers In Oil?[/b] Of the 85 million barrels per day (bpd) produced, 42% comes from OPEC, 15% comes from countries of the former Soviet Union and the balance of 43% comes from nonOPEC sources like the US and Europe. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is the international oil cartel. Their aim is to try to keep supply and demand in check to get a fair (good) price for its members, but allow enough supply to prevent the industrialised world from seeking alternative sources of energy. Is it too cynical to suggest that, with oil reserves falling over the years, it’s in their interests to keep production tight and the price high? Saudi Arabia is OPEC’s biggest producer. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the United States’ emergency oil stockpile, and it is the largest emergency petroleum supply in the world. The reserve stores about 570 million barrels of crude oil in underground salt caverns at four sites along the Gulf of Mexico. Any dipping into this reserve is going to be big news. So What’s Driving The Oil Price? Ask any politician and he’ll spit out the word, “Speculators”. Out in the real
world there are a number of factors, though most hone in on the common perception that demand is greater than supply. This list is far from exhaustive, but will give you a feel for what matters: • The easy-to-get oil has already been drilled. The next easiest to get oil is the wrong type; it’s ‘sour’ (rather than ‘sweet’) and more expensive to refine. There may be vast oil reserves in places like Canada’s tar sands, but these will be hugely expensive to get at. • Geo-political tensions in oil-producing countries. One day it’s militants in Nigeria, another day its Israel and Iran at each other’s throats. Tomorrow it’ll be someone else. These tensions are hugely significant because whenever someone throws their toys out the pram it threatens to disrupt the supply of oil. • The Dollar. Oil is priced in Dollars, so if the Dollar falls the oil price rises to maintain a constant value in other currencies. This move has been compounded by investors piling money into oil as a hedge against the weaker Dollar. • Inventories. The oil price is massively sensitive to the build up, or run down, of oil supplies. The most keenly watched figures are the stats from the US Energy Information Administration, released each Wednesday. [b]How To Trade Oil[/b] You can either trade oil through the equity market or through the oil spread bet. Let’s have a look at equities first. Now here’s something to make you choke on your sandwich; the oil majors are having a really crap time! But why? Well, it may not seem like it to you and me, but part of the problem is that petrol prices haven’t kept up with the rise in crude prices; the jargon is that the refining margins have fallen, and that’s quite a significant chunk of their business. The other problem is that these guys spend a lot of time sticking rods in the ground to see if anything spurts up and that costs a lot of money. There are exceptions; smaller companies like Tullow Oil and Dana Petroleum have had a cracking time. Each new discovery has notched up a couple of quid on the share price. And they’ve got the added attraction that one of the majors might decide it’s cheaper to bid for them than to look for new reserves itself. Until recently few people outside of Ireland had heard of Tullow. Nowadays, after several successful oil discoveries, it’s a FTSE 100 company. There are alternative ways of playing the oil price. The rise and fall of shares in airline companies has been related to the oil price. However, there are other factors too (BA suffered the Terminal 5 debacle) so it’s not a perfect strategy. The purest solution, if you want to follow the rise and fall of oil, is to trade the commodity itself. And spread betting is arguably the most convenient way of doing that. [b]Conclusion[/b] So now you should be armed with the ideas on how to trade oil, who and what are important and a rough idea of the sort of things that drive the oil price. Just a word of warning for newbies. Hidden inside this mountainous price rise are some nasty crevices. The volatility that makes this market so great can still eat you up and spit out the bony bits. Do your trading capital a big, big favour and use a [a href="http://simulator.paddypowertrader.com/demo/demo.shtml"]demo account[/a] for a while whilst you learn the tricks of the market. Then edge in
gently with small bet sizes. There’s no rush, there’ll always be a market to trade in when you’re ready.