Last Updated on 11 September, 2023 by Samuelsson
Crude oil futures are the most popular and most actively traded energy contract on the commodity market. In fact, crude oil futures are the global benchmark for the energy market. The contract is highly liquid and, at the same time, has the kind of volatility that attracts both traders and investors.
Trading crude oil futures market can be a profitable venture if you master the market and learn the factors that affect crude oil prices. But futures are leveraged instruments, which may not be appropriate for risk-averse investors, as price changes can happen in a dramatic fashion — in a matter of minutes.
Crude Oil Futures (CL) Contract Specifications
Crude Oil Futures (CL) contracts are traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and are the world’s most actively traded commodity futures contracts. The contract is the benchmark for pricing and pricing of global petroleum products. The contract size is 1,000 barrels and each tick is worth $10, with a minimum price fluctuation of $0.01 per barrel. The standard contract size is 1,000 barrels and the minimum tick is 0.0001 (equal to $0.10 per contract).
The delivery months for Crude Oil Futures (CL) contracts are March, May, July, and October. The contract is settled based on the average of the settlement prices for the last five trading days of the contract month. Delivery occurs on the 25th day of the month prior to the contract month.
The minimum margin requirement for a Crude Oil Futures (CL) contract is $2,500 per contract. The exchange also imposes a daily price limit of $10 per barrel, with a maximum of $30 per barrel.
Crude Oil Futures (CL) contracts are available for trading from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST, with a daily trading session from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. The exchange also imposes a daily price limit of $10 per barrel, with a maximum of $30 per barrel.
The delivery point for a Crude Oil Futures (CL) contract is at Cushing, Oklahoma, and the delivery date is the 25th day of the month prior to the contract month. The delivery grade is West Texas Intermediate (WTI) quality with a maximum sulfur content of 0.42 percent.
Clearing and settlement of Crude Oil Futures (CL) contracts are done through the New York Mercantile Exchange Clearing Corporation (NYMEXCC). The NYMEXCC is required to guarantee the performance of all contracts entered into.
All parties to a Crude Oil Futures (CL) contract must provide a margin deposit to cover potential losses that they may incur while trading the contract. The margin deposit is held in a special customer account with the NYMEXCC.
The exchange also imposes a daily price limit of $10 per barrel, with a maximum of $30 per barrel. The exchange also imposes a daily volume limit of 2,000 contracts.
In addition to the above, all parties must adhere to the rules and regulations of the exchange, which include issues such as record-keeping, dispute resolution, and position limits. All parties must also comply with the applicable laws, rules, and regulations of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
What You Need to Know About Crude Oil
Crude oil is unrefined petroleum, which occurs naturally in the ground and composed of hydrocarbon and other organic materials. It is formed from fossil deposits millions of years ago and can be processed into various useful products through a process known as fractional distillation. Here are some facts you should know about crude oil:
Evidence suggests that crude oil has been used in one form or another since ancient times, especially in Babylon, Persia, and China. But it rose in importance with the development of the internal combustion engine during the industrial revolution in the 19th century.
The first modern oil refinery could be traced to the works of James Young in 1851 in Scotland and Ignacy Łukasiewicz in 1856 in Austria. Today, the world is very much dependent on crude oil as a source of energy, despite the campaign for green energy.
Over 75 million barrels of crude oil are produced in the world every day, and most of them come from these countries: Russia, Saudi Arabia, USA, Iraq, Iran, China, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Brazil. Depending on the density and sulfur content, crude oil produced by these countries are classified into West Texas Intermediate (WTI), Brent Crude, Dubai Crude, and the Urals.
Crude oil is about the most useful commodity in the world. It is processed through fractional distillation to get a wide range of useful products, including gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, heating oil, kerosene, petroleum naphtha, asphalt base, liquefied petroleum gas, and fuel oils.
Apart from being a major source of the global energy supply, products from crude oil are used in the manufacture of many consumer products, such as plastics, cosmetics, fertilizers, pesticides, synthetic textiles, computer hardware, etc.
What Are Crude Oil Futures?
Crude oil futures are standardized contracts that trade on commodity exchanges, and their values reflect the anticipated price of crude oil in the future. A crude oil futures contract is an agreement to make or take delivery of a specified quantity of crude oil on a specified future date, at a predetermined price.
Crude oil futures started trading on the NYMEX in1983. The contract specifications normally state the quantity, grade, date of delivery, contract units, and currency denomination. Commodity exchanges have clearinghouses, who guarantee the contracts by acting as the middle person between buyers and sellers.
The contract trades on margin, meaning that only a small percentage of the total worth is deposited to trade it. Throughout the life of the contract, the clearinghouse marks the contract to market, so the daily differences in price are settled at the end of each trading day. Traders in winning positions have their profits added to their accounts while those in losing positions have their accounts debited.
At expiration, the seller provides the exchange with the specified quantity of crude oil and gets settled, while the buyer balances the exchange and takes delivery of the commodity. The settlement process can be quite complicated, which is why traders, who are not interested in the physical crude, try to avoid it.
In fact, most of the traders in the crude oil futures market are not interested in the physical commodity, and they avoid the process via any of these two ways:
Offsetting position before expiration
Speculative traders, short-term traders close their positions before the contract expires in order to avoid the final settlement and delivery process.
Rolling over to the next contract period
Long-term traders and hedgers tend to swap their expiring contracts with another contract with a further expiration date by simultaneously closing the current position and opening a new one in a contract with a further expiration date.
If, in any way, a trader unknowingly leaves his position until the contract expires but still wants to avoid the delivery process, he can retender the crude to the exchange. It will cost him a couple of hundred dollars per contract though.
rude Oil Futures Trading Strategies
Crude Oil Futures Trading Strategy
Being the most liquid contract of the energy futures contracts, the crude oil futures markets easily swallows big order without hesitation. Including the fact that there are many edges to be found on the market, it’s one of our favorite markets to trade. And as always, we have quite a lot of trading strategies trading the market simultaneously to achieve better diversification.
If you’re interested in getting edges for a variety of futures markets, we recommend that you have a look at our edge membership. As a member, you’ll get new edges delivered every month!
More Trading strategies in Crude Oil:
- OilTimer – Oct 2021 – An edge and market timer in Oil (Crude)
- Discovering a Crude Oil Trading Strategy (Improving a Crude Oil Strategy)
- Crude Oil Trading Strategy – Oct 2020 – With High Average Trade
Crude oil futures trading strategies generally involve taking advantage of the volatility of oil prices in order to make profits. Traders usually employ technical and fundamental analysis to identify potential trading opportunities. Technical analysis involves analyzing price charts and trends to identify support and resistance levels, while fundamental analysis involves analyzing supply and demand factors that could affect price movement. Additionally, traders may use strategies such as spread trading, scalping, or momentum trading to capitalize on market volatility. Risk management is also important, as traders must ensure that they have enough capital to cover potential losses and to limit their exposure to risk.
Crude Oil Futures Seasonality
Here is a seasonal chart of the crude oil spot price, found at cxoadvisory.
Crude oil is a major global commodity traded on the futures markets. Its price has a significant impact on the global economy and its seasonality has been widely studied. Seasonality refers to a price pattern that is repeated over time, in this case, a period of 12 months. Seasonality in crude oil futures can be explained by a variety of factors such as demand, production, and stockpiles.
Demand is one of the most important factors that influence the seasonality of crude oil futures prices. During the winter months, demand for heating oil increases, which can cause a spike in prices. Likewise, during the summer months, demand for gasoline increases due to increased driving, which can also cause a spike in prices.
Production also has a significant effect on crude oil futures prices. During the summer months, production is typically higher due to increased demand for gasoline. This increased production can lead to lower prices. Conversely, during the winter months, production is typically lower due to lower demand for heating oil. This can lead to higher prices.
Stockpiles are another factor that influences the seasonality of crude oil futures prices. During the winter months, stockpiles are typically lower due to increased demand for heating oil. This can lead to higher prices. Likewise, during the summer months, stockpiles are typically higher due to increased production. This can lead to lower prices.
The seasonality of crude oil futures can vary from month to month. In January, prices tend to peak due to higher winter demand. In February, prices tend to remain high due to the continued winter demand. In March, prices typically start to decline as the winter demand begins to wane. In April, prices continue to decline as production increases and stockpiles start to build. In May, prices typically remain low due to increased production and stockpiles.
In June, prices typically start to increase again as demand increases with the start of the summer driving season. In July and August, prices typically remain high due to the continued summer demand. In September, prices start to decline again as production increases and stockpiles build. In October, prices tend to remain low due to increased production and stockpiles. In November, prices start to increase again as winter demand begins to pick up. Finally, in December, prices tend to peak as winter demand reaches its peak.
Overall, the seasonality of crude oil futures prices is affected by a variety of factors such as demand, production, and stockpiles. This seasonality can vary from month to month, with prices typically peaking in the winter months and bottoming out in the summer months. By understanding the seasonal patterns in crude oil futures prices, traders can gain an edge in the market.
How Do Crude Oil Futures Contracts Trade?
Unlike forward contracts, which trade over the counter, crude oil futures contracts trade on commodity exchanges and are standardized. Here are the key features of crude oil contracts.
Exchanges where crude oil futures contracts trade
Crude oil futures trade on several popular commodity exchanges around the world, including the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM), the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) London, which is now a subsidiary of the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group.
The exchanges offer contracts on the different types of crude oil, such as the Brent, Middle East Sour Crude and WTI. But the WTI is most popular in the American market.
Margins and leverage
A crude oil futures trader is required to have a certain minimum amount in his account to be able to trade a crude oil contract. This minimum amount is known as the margin, and its value depends on the exchange, type of contract (a full contract or mini contract), contract expiration, and the market situation.
The margin requirements for the full crude oil contract on the NYMEX is $4,000 for the December 2019 contract, $3,975 for the February 2020 contract, and $3,925 for the March 2020 contract. Leverage, which is inversely related to the margin also varies accordingly.
On the CME and ICE, one full contract of crude oil settles for 1,000 barrels or 4,200 gallons of the commodity, and the price quotation is in the U.S. dollar and cents per barrel. The minimum price fluctuation is one cent per barrel or $10 per contract. On the TOCOM, crude oil futures prices are quoted in yen per kiloliter and are traded in lot sizes of 50 kiloliters or 13,210 gallons.
Apart from the standard full contract, the CME also offers the E-mini crude oil futures contract, which settles for 500 barrels or 2,100 gallons of crude oil.
For the WTI contracts on the CME Group, monthly contracts are listed for the current year and the next 10 calendar years, with two additional contract months. Following the termination of trading in the December contract of the current year, monthly contract for a new calendar year and two additional contact months are added.
Trading terminates three business days before the 25th calendar day of the month prior to the delivery month. If the 25th calendar day is not a business day, trading terminates on the third day prior to the last business day preceding the 25th calendar day.
At expiration, the contracts are settled by physical delivery, and the delivery procedure is as follows:
- The commodity is delivered no earlier than the first calendar day of the delivery month and no later than the last calendar day of the delivery month.
- The seller is obligated to ensure that its crude oil receipts, including each specific foreign crude oil stream, if applicable, are available to begin flowing ratably in Cushing, Oklahoma by the first day of the delivery month, in accordance with generally accepted pipeline scheduling practices.
- The seller shall provide the buyer with all the paperwork, including the pipeline ticket, any other quantitative certificates, and all appropriate documents upon receipt of payment. The seller shall provide preliminary confirmation of the title transfer, by telex or other means, at the time of delivery.
On the ICE, however, the WTI crude oil futures contract is cash-settled against the prevailing market price for US light sweet crude. It is a price in USD per barrel equal to the penultimate settlement price for WTI crude futures as made public by NYMEX for the month of production, in accordance with the 2005 ISDA Commodity Definitions.
What important reports are there for Crude Oil and when are they coming?
There are several important report days that can affect the price of crude oil futures. The International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes its monthly oil market report on the second Tuesday of every month. The report includes an overview of global oil supply and demand, as well as an outlook for the coming month. The report is closely watched by oil traders, as it can provide valuable insight into the direction of global crude oil prices.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) also publishes its weekly inventory report on Wednesday of each week. The report provides an overview of the U.S. crude oil and products inventory levels, as well as an analysis of production and consumption levels. This report is closely watched by oil traders, as it can provide important insight into short-term supply and demand levels.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) also releases its monthly oil market report on the 13th of every month. The report provides an overview of OPEC’s production levels, estimates of demand and supply, as well as other important industry information. This report is closely watched by oil traders, as it can provide valuable insight into the direction of global crude oil prices.
Finally, the American Petroleum Institute (API) publishes its weekly inventory report on Tuesday of each week. This report provides an overview of U.S. crude oil and product inventory levels, as well as an analysis of production and consumption levels. This report is closely watched by oil traders, as it can provide important insight into short-term supply and demand levels.
Overall, the IEA, EIA, OPEC and API reports are important report days for crude oil futures. These reports provide valuable insight into the direction of global crude oil prices and can help traders make informed decisions.
Why Trade Crude Oil Futures?
The reasons for trading crude oil futures vary among traders, but most of them fall under controlling price risk, inflation hedge, portfolio diversification, and speculation.
Managing price risk
Crude oil producers can sell crude oil futures contracts to secure their profit at the current price and protect their businesses from severe price fluctuations in the future. For example, say crude oil is trading at $67.00 per barrel, and it costs Company X, an oil-producing company, $40.00 to produce one barrel of crude. If Company X is concerned that the price of crude may decline in the future, they may approach the futures market and sell enough crude oil contracts that cover their anticipated production volume. Assuming crude oil price falls to $50 per barrel when the contract expires, Company X must have preserved $17 per barrel for themselves.
Similarly, crude oil refiners can buy crude oil contracts to secure a stable supply of crude they need in their factories. If there is a shortage of supply in the future and the price rises, they won’t have to worry about their crude oil supply because they had already secured a contract at a cheaper price.
While fiat currencies lose their purchasing power when there is rising inflation, commodity prices tend to rise during hyperinflationary periods, and crude oil is not an exception. As a result, some investors buy the commodity to protect their wealth against inflation.
Fund managers and institutional investors always try to diversify their portfolio across several asset classes, and crude oil futures are one of those derivatives with enough liquidity to absorb their huge orders. These investors understand that by spreading their investments across many asset classes, they’re reducing their exposure to market risks.
The majority of individual traders in the crude oil futures market trade for speculative purposes. They are not interested in the crude oil per se; their only interest is to benefit from the daily fluctuations in oil prices.
CFactors Affecting Crude Oil Futures Prices
Crude oil prices are affected by a lot of factors, and these are some of them:
Supply disruptions: Disruptions in oil supply can push the prices up. Many of the countries in the Middle East are among the top crude oil producers in the world, and some of them often experience adverse political situations, such as wars, terrorism, and international sanctions. Apart from the political events, oil supply disruptions can be caused by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) if they intensional decide to reduce output to push crude prices up.
Shale oil production: The US has turned from being the biggest crude oil importer to one of the top 10 exporters of oil, all thanks to the shale oil boom which started in 2010. The oversupply caused by the increase in U.S. output is one of the main reasons for the 2015 severe decline in oil prices, which lasted until OPEC decided to cut output and help crude prices recover above $50 per barrel.
Shifting demand: With the emergence of improved technologies, we now have cars that are more fuel-efficient. Some even run entirely on battery or solar energy. All these, coupled with the push for renewable sources of energy, will affect the demand for crude oil.
Global warming and changing policies: The issue of climate change and global warming has become a major talking point in recent times, and governments around the world are making policies to reduce the use of fossil fuels. This will reduce the demand for crude oil and can affect prices.
Energy reports: Traders closely monitor the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Weekly Energy Stocks report. The report is released around 10:30 a.m. ET every Wednesday, and it details the crude oil inventories in the US. Other keenly followed reports are the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report, American Petroleum Institute (API) Inventory Report, Monthly Energy Review, International Energy Agency (IEA) Oil Market Report, Annual Energy Outlook, Short-Term Energy Outlook, and International Energy Outlook.
Crude oil is one of the most important commodities on our planet. It touches every aspect of the global economy — energy production, transportation, and even consumer goods. The CME Group, ICE, and TOCOM offer crude oil futures contracts.
Here is our archive with articles about other tradeable futures markets.https://therobusttrader.com/oiltimer-an-edge-and-market-timer-in-oil-crude/