How does oil speculation raise gas prices?
by Josh Clark
“…An oil futureis simply a contract between a buyer and seller, where the buyer agrees to purchase a certain amount of a commodity — in this case oil — at a fixed price
. Futures offer a way for a purchaser to bet on whether a commodity will increase in price down the road. Once locked into a contract, a futures buyer would receive a barrel of oil for the price dictated in the future contract, even if the market price was higher when the barrel was actually delivered.
As in all cases, Wall Street heard the word "bet" and flocked to futures, taking the market to strange new places on the fringe of legality. In the 19th and early 20th centuries it bet on grain. In the 21st century it was oil. Despite U.S. petroleum reserves being at an eight-year high, the price of oil rose dramatically beginning in 2006. While demand rose, supply kept pace. Yet, prices still skyrocketed. This means that the laws of supply and demand no longer applied in the oil markets. Instead, an artificial market developed.
Artificial markets are volatile; they’re difficult to predict and can turn on a dime. As a result of the artificial oil market, the average price per barrel of crude oil increased from $31.61 in July 2004 to $137.11 in July 2008 1. The average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the United States grew from $1.93 to $4.09 over the same period 1.
So what happened? …"
"…What speculators do is bet on what price a commodity will reach by a future date, through instruments called <strong>derivatives</strong>. Unlike an investment in an actual commodity (such as a barrel of oil), a derivative’s value is based on the value of a commodity (for example, a bet on whether a barrel of oil will increase or decrease in price). Speculators have no hand in the sale of the commodity they’re betting on; they’re not the buyer or the seller.
By betting on the price outcome with only a single futures contract, a speculator has no effect on a market. It’s simply a bet. But a speculator with the capital to purchase a sizeable number of futures derivatives at one price can actually sway the market. As energy researcher F. William Engdahl put it, "[s]peculators trade on rumor, not fact" 1. A speculator purchasing vast futures at higher than the current market price can cause oil producers to horde their commodity in the hopes they’ll be able to sell it later on at the future price. This drives prices up in reality — both future and present prices — due to the decreased amount of oil currently available on the market.
Investment firms that can influence the oil futures market stand to make a lot; oil companies that both produce the commodity and drive prices up of their product up through oil futures derivatives stand to make even more. Investigations into the unregulated oil futures exchanges turned up major financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. But it also revealed energy producers like Vitol, a Swiss company that owned 11 percent of the oil futures contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange alone 1.
As a result of speculation among these and other major players, an estimated 60 percent of the price of oil per barrel was added; a $100 barrel of oil, in reality, should cost $40 1. And despite having an agency created to prevent just such speculative price inflation, by the time oil prices skyrocketed, the government had made a paper tiger out of it. …"
<h4>It’s no secret that speculators are driving up fuel prices. The surprise? It’s the Fed’s fault, writes Ed Wallace</h4>
<h4>"…The Fed’s Cheap Liquidity Flood</h4>
The problem starts with Ben Bernanke, no matter how many of his Fed presidents claim they are not to blame for the high price of oil. The fact is that when you flood the market with far too much liquidity at virtually no interest, funny things happen in commodities and equities. It was true in the 1920s, it was true in the last decade, and it’s still true today.
When Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve, spoke in Germany late in March, Reuters quoted him as saying: "We are seeing speculative activity that may be exacerbating price rises in commodities such as oil." Fisher added that he was seeing the signs of the same speculative trading that had fueled the first financial meltdown.
Here Fisher is in good company. Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig, who has been a vocal critic of the current Fed policy of zero interest and high liquidity, has suggested that markets don’t function correctly under those circumstances. And David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s former budget director, recently wrote a scathing article for MarketWatch, "Federal Reserve’s Path of Destruction," in which he criticizes current Fed policy even more pointedly. Stockman wrote: "This destruction is namely the exploitation of middle-class savers; the current severe food and energy squeeze on lower income households … and the next round of bursting bubbles building up among the risk asset classes."
Let’s not kid ourselves. Oil in today’s world is worth far more than the $25 a barrel it sold for over a decade ago. But the ability of markets to function properly, based on real supply and demand equations, has been destroyed by allowing ridiculous leverage and the unlimited ability to borrow the leverage at historically low interest rates.
Fortunately for our elected officials, they’ve got the public convinced that the biggest threat from government is taxation and deficits. In reality the public should be infuriated with the rising costs of nondiscretionary items such as food and gasoline, which current Fed policy actively enables. …"
<p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Price of petroleum</strong></p>
"…The <strong>price of petroleum</strong> as quoted in news generally refers to the spot price per barrel (159 liters) of either WTI/light crude as traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) for delivery at Cushing, Oklahoma, or of Brent as traded on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE, into which the International Petroleum Exchange has been incorporated) for delivery at Sullom Voe.
The price of a barrel of oil is highly dependent on both its grade, determined by factors such as its specific gravity or API and its sulphur content, and its location. Other important benchmarks include Dubai, Tapis, and the OPEC basket. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) uses the imported refiner acquisition cost, the weighted average cost of all oil imported into the US, as its "world oil price".
The demand for oil is highly dependent on global macroeconomic conditions. According to the International Energy Agency, high oil prices generally have a large negative impact on the global economic growth.<sup></sup>
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was formed in 1960<sup></sup> to try and counter the oil companies cartel, which had been controlling posted prices since the so-called 1927 Red Line Agreement and 1928 Achnacarry Agreement, and had achieved a high level of price stability until 1972.
The price of oil underwent a significant decrease after the record peak of US$145 it reached in July 2008. On December 23, 2008, WTI crude oil spot price fell to US$30.28 a barrel, the lowest since the financial crisis of 2007–2010 began, and traded at between US$35 a barrel and US$82 a barrel in 2009.<sup></sup> On 31 January 2011, the Brent price hit $100 a barrel for the first time since October 2008, on concerns about the political unrest in Egypt.<sup></sup>
Price history before 2003
A low point was reached in January 1999 of 17 USD per barrel, after increased oil production from Iraq coincided with the Asian Financial Crisis, which reduced demand. Prices then increased rapidly, more than doubling by September 2000 to $35, then fell until the end of 2001 before steadily increasing, reaching $40–50 by September 2004.<sup></sup>
<h3>Price history from 2003 onwards</h3>
<div>Main article: 2003 to 2011 world oil market chronology</div>
<div>Further information: 2000s energy crisis</div>
<div>Main article: Benchmark (crude oil)</div>
After the collapse of the OPEC-administered pricing system in 1985, and a short lived experiment with netback pricing, oil-exporting countries adopted a market-linked pricing mechanism.<sup></sup> First adopted by PEMEX in 1986, market-linked pricing received wide acceptance and by 1988 became and still is the main method for pricing crude oil in international trade.<sup></sup> The current reference, or pricing markers, are Brent, WTI, and Dubai/Oman.<sup></sup>
<h4> Market listings</h4>
<div>Main article: Commodities markets</div>
Oil is marketed among other products in commodities markets. See above for details. Widely traded oil futures, and related natural gas futures, include:<sup></sup>
<li>Nymex Crude Future</li>
<li>Dated Brent Spot</li>
<li>WTI Cushing Spot</li>
<li>Nymex Heating Oil Future</li>
<li>Nymex RBOB Gasoline Future</li>
<li>Nymex Henry Hub Future</li>
<li>Henry Hub Spot</li>
<li>New York City Gate Spot</li>
Most of the above oil futures have delivery dates in all 12 months of the year.<sup></sup>
The surge in oil prices in the past several years has led some commentators to argue that at least some of the rise is due to speculation in the futures markets.<sup></sup>
<h4> Future price changes</h4>
In 2009, Seismic Micro-Technology conducted a survey of geophysicists and geologists about the future of crude oil. Of the survey participants 80 percent predicted the price for a barrel of oil will rise to be somewhere between $50 and $100 per barrel by June 2010.<sup></sup> Another 50 percent saying it will rise even further to $100 to $150 a barrel in the next five years.<sup></sup>
Oil prices could go to $200- $300 a barrel if the world’s top crude exporter Saudi Arabia is hit by serious political unrest, according to former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Yamani. Yamani has said that underlying discontent remained unresolved in Saudi Arabia. "If something happens in Saudi Arabia it will go to $200 to $300. I don’t expect this for the time being, but who would have expected Tunisia?" Yamani told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference of the Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES) which he chaired on April 5th 2011.<sup></sup>
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced "Multiple Energy Market Initiatives" on May 29, 2008. Part 1 is "Expanded International Surveillance Information for Crude Oil Trading." The CFTC announcement stated it has joined with the United Kingdom Financial Services Authority and ICE Futures Europe in order to expand surveillance and information sharing of various futures contracts.<sup></sup> This announcement has received wide coverage in the financial press, with speculation about oil futures price manipulation.<sup></sup><sup></sup><sup></sup>
The interim report by the Interagency Task Force, released in July, found that speculation had not caused significant changes in oil prices and that fundamental supply and demand factors provide the best explanation for the crude oil price increases. The report found that the primary reason for the price increases was that the world economy had expanded at its fastest pace in decades, resulting in substantial increases in the demand for oil, while the oil production grew sluggishly, compounded by production shortfalls in oil-exporting countries.
The report stated that as a result of the imbalance and low price elasticity, very large price increases occurred as the market attempted to balance scarce supply against growing demand, particularly in the last three years. The report forecast that this imbalance would persist in the future, leading to continued upward pressure on oil prices, and that large or rapid movements in oil prices are likely to occur even in the absence of activity by speculators. The task force continues to analyze commodity markets and intends to issue further findings later in the year.
<div>Main article: Oil depletion</div>
<div>Main article: Peak oil</div>
Peak oil is the period when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. It relates to a long term decline in the available supply of petroleum. This, combined with increasing demand, will significantly increase the worldwide prices of petroleum derived products. Most significant will be the availability and price of liquid fuel for transportation.
The US Department of Energy in the Hirsch report indicates that “The problems associated with world oil production peaking will not be temporary, and past “energy crisis” experience will provide relatively little guidance.”<sup> …"</sup>
<p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Gas prices soar on dollar devaluation even as consumption drops to 10-year lows </strong></p>
<strong>Written By Kenneth Schortgen Jr on Monday, February 13, 2012</strong>
"…One of the biggest misnomers in finance and economics today is that prices work according to supply and demand. This was true when America performed in actual capitalist system, but since we moved to both fascism and crony capitalism, where corporations, banks, and government all work together at the betterment of themselves and not society, prices are fixed due to other factors such as dollar devaluation.
<div style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong><em>U.S. drivers used 2.8 percent less motor gasoline last year and consumed the smallest amount since 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy said Wednesday. Officials credited the decrease to more fuel-efficient cars and an aging population taking few trips.</em></strong></div>
<div style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong><em>Meanwhile, U.S. domestic oil production increased by more than 2 percent last year to 5.6 million barrels per day. – </em></strong><a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120209/BUSINESS/302090065/-1/TERMSOFSERVICE/Gas-consumption-lowest-since-1999"><strong><em>Des Moines Register</em></strong></a></div>
So… if consumption is way down, and production is actually up, should not gasoline prices be falling? They should, except if you take into consideration the amount of money printing and currency devaluation being done by the Federal Reserve over the past four years, the amount of inflation is being created by our own banking system, and not by a lack of products, or by higher demand.
In the end, Americans are being deceived by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. …"
<h3 style="text-align: left;"></h3>
<h3 style="text-align: left;">Gasoline Prices Are Not Rising, the Dollar Is Falling</h3>
<strong><a href="http://blogs.forbes.com/louiswoodhill/">Louis Woodhill</a></strong>
"…Panic is in the air as gasoline prices move above $4.00 per gallon. Politicians and pundits are rounding up the usual suspects, looking for someone or something to blame for this latest outrage to middle class family budgets. In a rare display of bipartisanship, President Obama and Speaker of the House <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/john-boehner/">John Boehner</a> are both wringing their hands over the prospect of seeing their newly extended Social <a href="http://www.forbes.com/security/">Security</a> tax cut gobbled up by rising gasoline costs.
Unfortunately, the talking heads that are trying to explain the reasons for high oil prices are missing one tiny detail. Oil prices aren’t high right now. In fact, they are unusually low. Gasoline prices would have to rise by another $0.65 to $0.75 per gallon from where they are now just to be “normal”. And, because gasoline prices are low right now, it is very likely that they are going to go up more—perhaps a lot more.
What the politicians, analysts, and pundits are missing is that prices are ratios. Gasoline prices reflect crude oil prices, so let’s use West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil to illustrate this crucial point.
As this is written, West Texas Intermediate crude oil (WTI) is trading at $105.88/bbl. All this means is that the market value of a barrel of WTI is 105.88 times the market value of “the dollar”. It is also true that WTI is trading at €79.95/bbl, ¥8,439.69/barrel, and £67.13/bbl. In all of these cases, the market value of WTI is the same. What is different in each case is the value of the monetary unit (euros, yen, and British pounds, respectively) being used to calculate the ratio that expresses the price.
In terms of judging whether the price of WTI is high or low, here is the price that truly matters: 0.0602 ounces of gold per barrel (which can be written as Au0.0602/bbl). What this number means is that, right now, a barrel of WTI has the same market value as 0.0602 ounces of gold.
During the 493 months since January 1, 1971, the price of WTI has averaged Au0.0732/bbl. It has been higher than that during 225 of those months and lower than that during 268 of those months. Plotted as a graph, the line representing the price of a barrel of oil in terms of gold has crossed the horizontal line representing the long-term average price (Au0.0732/bbl) 29 times.
At Au0.0602/bbl, today’s WTI price is only 82% of its average over the past 41+ years. Assuming that gold prices remained at today’s $1,759.30/oz, WTI prices would have to rise by about 22%, to $128.86/bbl, in order to reach their long-term average in terms of gold. As mentioned earlier, such an increase would drive up retail gasoline prices by somewhere between $0.65 and $0.75 per gallon.
At this point, we can be certain that, unless gold prices come down, gasoline prices are going to go up—by a lot. And, because the dollar is currently a floating, undefined, fiat currency, there is no inherent limit to how far the price of gold in dollars can rise, and therefore no ultimate ceiling on gasoline prices. …"
<strong>Why Gas Prices Are Actually Falling </strong>
<div><strong>By Gary Gibson</strong></div>
"…It’s not gold and silver prices that are volatile. Those have been incredibly consistent for thousands of years in terms of commodities they could buy. And because of the increasing standard of living being raised by free market economies, in a very real sense these eternal monies actually buy more. It’s the dollar that has been erratic in its overall declining trend ever since it’s been cut loose from gold (and silver).
Again, people looking at the cost of a gallon of gas, or of milk, or the cost of a nice suit, or rent from behind their piles of gold and silver are finding very little to worry about. In fact, to them, prices are lower than normal and declining.
Also the price of oil has tended to track the price of silver awfully closely for about as long as oil has been industrially useful. And so it’s no mistake that you can still get a gallon of gas for about about $0.20…as long as that $0.20 is composed of a pre-1964 90% silver dimes. …"
<a href="http://raymondpronk.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/silver_quarter.png"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-55554" title="silver_quarter" src="http://raymondpronk.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/silver_quarter.png" alt="" width="544" height="195" /></a>
"…You see, the pre-1965 quarter is worth $6.38 as I type this. The pre-1965 dime is worth $2.55. These coins hail from a time when the dollar was still tied to gold (at the official price of $35 per ounce prior to Nixon nixing the gold standard). The dollar was still as good as gold — even though Americans themselves were forbidden to own gold bullion from 1933 till 1974 — and there was actual silver in the coinage until that content was reduced in 1964 and eliminated in 1965.
Those old silver coins shine the harsh light on the strength of the currency and the abuse that currency suffers from the feds and the Federal Reserve.
If you’d been saving in gold, then from your point of view gas prices have been coming down for the past few years. If you’d been saving in that old “junk” silver (pre-1965 quarters, dimes and half dollars), then gas prices are a downright bargain, too. …"
<h4><strong>Consequences to Expect if the U.S. Invades Iran </strong></h4>
<h4><strong>By Whiskey Contributor<small>Feb 22nd, 2012</small></strong></h4>
<h4><strong>Exploding Oil Prices</strong></h4>
The U.S. has had a ban on Iranian oil imports since 1979, however, Iran still supplies about 5% of the global oil market. This might not seem like much, but Iran also has the means and ability to shut down the Straight of Hormuz, which is one of two major petroleum choke points in the world. Around 17 million barrels of oil per day are shipped through the Straight of Hormuz, or about 20% of all oil traded worldwide.
<p align="center"><img src="http://www.ezimages.net/WHISKEY/022212_pic2.png" alt="" width="363" height="208" /></p>
"…In 2006, during the last major Iran war scare, experts predicted gasoline price increases in excess of <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2006/02/07/news/international/iran_oil/" target="_blank">$10 a gallon if Iran was invaded.</a>
This would devastate the U.S. economy, which is already hanging by a thin thread. Iran has announced this past weekend it will cease all oil shipments to Britain and France in protest of their support of economic sanctions. This alone is causing oil to spike today. A global energy crisis will financially decimate average citizens who will have their savings sapped by extreme price inflation, not just in gasoline, but in all goods that require the use of gasoline in their production and shipping. If you like this idea, then by all means, support an invasion of Iran.
<strong>War Domino Effect</strong>
In January of 2010, I wrote an article for Neithercorp Press entitled <a href="http://www.alt-market.com/neithercorp/press/2010/01/will-globalists-trigger-yet-another-world-war/" target="_blank">“Will Globalists Trigger Yet Another World War</a>“. In that article, I warned about the dangers of an invasion of Iran or Syria being used to foment a global conflict, in order to create a crisis large enough to distract the masses away from the international banker created economic collapse.
In 2006, Iran signed a mutual defense pact with its neighbor, Syria, which is also in the middle of its own turmoil and possible NATO intervention. Syria has strong ties to Russia, and even has a revamped Russian naval base off its coast, a fact rarely mentioned by the mainstream media. Both Russia and China have made their opposition clear in the case of any Western intervention in Iran or Syria. An invasion by the U.S. or Israel in these regions could quickly intensify into wider war between major world powers. If you like the idea of a world war which could eventually put you and your family in direct danger, then by all means, support an invasion of Iran.
Make no mistake, the U.S. dollar is already on the verge of collapse, along with the U.S. economy. Bilateral trade agreements between BRIC and ASEAN nations are sprouting up everywhere the past couple months, and these agreements are specifically designed to end the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency. An invasion of Iran will only expedite this process. If global anger over the resulting chaos in oil prices doesn’t set off a dump of the dollar, the eventual debt obligation incurred through the overt costs of war will. Ron Paul has always been right; it doesn’t matter whether you think invasion is a good idea or not. We simply CANNOT afford it. America is bankrupt. Our only source of income is our ability to print money from thin air. Each dollar created to fund new wars brings our currency ever closer to its demise. …"
<h1 style="text-align: center;">Background Articles and Videos</h1>
<h4 style="text-align: center;"></h4>
<h4 style="text-align: center;"></h4>
<h4 id="watch-headline-title" style="text-align: center;">Introduction to Futures</h4>
<p style="text-align: center;"> </p>
<h4 id="watch-headline-title" style="text-align: center;">What is a Future?</h4>
<p style="text-align: center;"> </p>
<h4 id="watch-headline-title" style="text-align: center;">Investopedia Video: How Do Futures Contracts Work?</h4>
<p style="text-align: center;"> </p>
<h4 id="watch-headline-title" style="text-align: center;">Commodity futures margin accounts</h4>
<p style="text-align: center;"> </p>
<div><strong> Security Futures—Know Your Risks, or Risk Your Future</strong></div>
<strong>"…Margin & Leverage</strong>
When a brokerage firm lends you part of the funds needed to purchase a security, such as common stock, the term "margin" refers to the amount of cash, or down payment, the customer is required to deposit. By contrast, a security futures contract is an obligation not an asset and has no value as collateral for a loan. When you enter into a security futures contract, you are required to make a payment referred to as a "margin payment" or "performance bond" to cover potential losses.
For a relatively small amount of money (the margin requirement), a futures contract worth several times as much can be bought or sold. The smaller the margin requirement in relation to the underlying value of the futures contract, the greater the leverage. Because of this leverage, small changes in price can result in large gains and losses in a short period of time.
<strong>Example:</strong> Assuming a security futures contract is for 100 shares of stock, if a security futures contract is established at a contract price of $50, the contract has a nominal value of $5,000 (see definition below). The margin requirement may be as low as 20 percent, which would require a margin deposit of $1,000. Assume the contract price rises from $50 to $52 (a $200 increase in the nominal value). This represents a $200 profit to the buyer of the futures contract, and a 20 percent return on the $1,000 deposited as margin.
The reverse would be true if the contract price decreased from $50 to $48. This represents a $200 loss to the buyer, or 20 percent of the $1,000 deposited as margin. Thus, leverage can either benefit or harm an investor.
Note that a 4 percent decrease in the value of the contract resulted in a loss of 20 percent of the margin deposited. A 20 percent decrease in the contract price ($50 to $40) would mean a drop in the nominal value of the contract from $5,000 to $4,000, thereby wiping out 100 percent of the margin deposited on the security futures contract. …"
<h4>Futures Margins<a href="http://www.dpbolvw.net/click-2519541-10992963" target="_blank"> </a></h4>
<!– google_ad_section_start –>Participants in a futures contract are required to post performance bond margins in order to open and maintain a futures position.
Futures margin requirements are set by the exchanges and are typically only 2 to 10 percent of the full value of the futures contract.
Margins are financial guarantees required of both buyers and sellers of futures contracts to ensure that they fulfill their futures contract obligations.
Before a futures position can be opened, there must be enough available balance in the futures trader’s margin account to meet the initial margin requirement. Upon opening the futures position, an amount equal to the initial margin requirement will be deducted from the trader’s margin account and transferred to the exchange’s clearing firm. This money is held by the exchange clearinghouse as long as the futures position remains open.
The maintenance margin is the minimum amount a futures trader is required to maintain in his margin account in order to hold a futures position. The maintenance margin level is usually slightly below the initial margin.
If the balance in the futures trader’s margin account falls below the maintenance margin level, he or she will receive a margin call to top up his margin account so as to meet the initial margin requirement.
Let’s assume we have a speculator who has $10000 in his trading account. He decides to buy August Crude Oil at $40 per barrel. Each Crude Oil futures contract represents 1000 barrels and requires an initial margin of $9000 and has a maintenance margin level set at $6500.
Since his account is $10000, which is more than the initial margin requirement, he can therefore open up one August Crude Oil futures position.
One day later, the price of August Crude Oil drops to $38 a barrel. Our speculator has suffered an open position loss of $2000 ($2 x 1000 barrels) and thus his account balance drops to $8000.
Although his balance is now lower than the initial margin requirement, he did not get the margin call as it is still above the maintenance level of $6500.
Unfortunately, on the very next day, the price of August Crude Oil crashed further to $35, leading to an additional $3000 loss on his open Crude Oil position. With only $5000 left in his trading account, which is below the maintenance level of $6500, he received a call from his broker asking him to top up his trading account back to the initial level of $9000 in order to maintain his open Crude Oil position.
This means that if the speculator wishes to stay in the position, he will need to deposit an additional $4000 into his trading account.
Otherwise, if he decides to quit the position, the remaining $5000 in his account will be available to use for trading once again. …"
<div><strong>Federal Regulation of Margin in the Commodities Futures Industry: History and Theory</strong></div>
<h4>How does oil speculation raise gas prices?</h4>
<h4>by Josh Clark</h4>
"…The next time you drive to the gas station, only to find prices are still sky high compared to just a few years ago, take notice of the rows of <a href="http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/debt-management/foreclosure.htm">foreclosed</a> houses you’ll pass along the way. They may seem like two parts of a spell of economic bad luck, but high gas prices and home foreclosures are actually very much interrelated. Before most people were even aware there was an <a href="http://money.howstuffworks.com/government-bailout.htm">economic crisis</a>, investment managers abandoned failing <a href="http://money.howstuffworks.com/mortgage-backed-security.htm">mortgage-backed securities</a> and looked for other lucrative investments. What they settled on was oil futures.
An <strong>oil future</strong> is simply a contract between a buyer and seller, where the buyer agrees to purchase a certain amount of a commodity — in this case <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-refining.htm">oil</a>– at a fixed price
. Futures offer a way for a purchaser to bet on whether a commodity will increase in price down the road. Once locked into a contract, a futures buyer would receive a barrel of oil for the price dictated in the future contract, even if the market price was higher when the barrel was actually delivered. …”
“…What speculators do is bet on what price a commodity will reach by a future date, through instruments called derivatives. Unlike an investment in an actual commodity (such as a barrel of oil), a derivative’s value is based on the value of a commodity (for example, a bet on whether a barrel of oil will increase or decrease in price). Speculators have no hand in the sale of the commodity they’re betting on; they’re not the buyer or the seller.
By betting on the price outcome with only a single futures contract, a speculator has no effect on a market. It’s simply a bet. But a speculator with the capital to purchase a sizeable number of futures derivatives at one price can actually sway the market. As energy researcher F. William Engdahl put it, “[s]peculators trade on rumor, not fact”
. A speculator purchasing vast futures at higher than the current market price can cause oil producers to horde their commodity in the hopes they’ll be able to sell it later on at the future price. This drives prices up in reality — both future and present prices — due to the decreased amount of oil currently available on the market.
Investment firms that can influence the oil futures market stand to make a lot; oil companies that both produce the commodity and drive prices up of their product up through oil futures derivatives stand to make even more. Investigations into the unregulated oil futures exchanges turned up major financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. But it also revealed energy producers like Vitol, a Swiss company that owned 11 percent of the oil futures contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange alone
As a result of speculation among these and other major players, an estimated 60 percent of the price of oil per barrel was added; a $100 barrel of oil, in reality, should cost $40
. And despite having an agency created to prevent just such speculative price inflation, by the time oil prices skyrocketed, the government had made a paper tiger out of it. …”
“…U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged just under 14.9 million barrels per
above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 85.5 percent
of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased
last week, averaging nearly 9.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel
U.S. crude oil imports averaged nearly 9.1 million barrels per day last
week, up by 335 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over
period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished
thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 122 thousand
barrels per day last week.
U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic
week. At 340.7 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are in the
upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor
in the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories
decreased while blending components inventories increased last week.
are in the middle of the average range for this time of year. Propane/
above the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum
inventories increased by 3.3 million barrels last week.
the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline
percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied
down by 5.9 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product
same four-week period last year.
last week’s price and $18.24 above a year ago. The spot price for
$0.022 more than last week’s price and $0.483 above last year. The
spot price for No. 2 heating oil in the New York Harbor was $3.185 per
gallon, $0.002 less than last week’s price but $0.474 above a year ago.
gallon more than last week and $0.402 above a year ago. The national
$0.387 above a year ago. …”