Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Trading Oil and Gas Contracts Using CFDs

Many traders do not realise that Contracts for Difference can be used not just for stockmarket trading, but also in the forex and commodities markets, and one of the most liquid and exciting markets is crude oil and natural gas. CFDs are usually modelled in the same way as futures contracts, and consequently there are several contracts from which to choose in each category.

It is well known that the crude oil market is normally priced either as either Brent crude or US crude. The current spread between the two is about $3.5, Brent being higher, but this varies according to supply and demand, liquidity and other geopolitical issues.

Different contracts

Within each market, several expiration months are quoted and at the time of writing (June 2007) July, August and September CFDs are available. The difference in prices between the various contracts reflects the cost of carry and other seasonal factors as it would for all commodities.

What this means is that you do not pay financing interest on these CFDs, because all positions are rolled over into expiry and the contract values already price in the cost of carry.

What can you trade?

It is possible to trade various many different CFDs related to oil prices. These include:

Heating oil, for which there is a liquid US-based quote with several expirations

UK Oil and Gas sector CFDs

US Oil and Gas sector CFDs

Individual oil share CFDs including such varied names as Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil, Total-Fina, Exxon Mobil and many smaller oil company stocks around the world

US Natural Gas CFDs with various expirations

Calculating the margin on a US crude contract

As we analyse the US crude oil market every day in our US report, it is worth looking at this contract to calculate what margin is required on a trade.

The current most liquid contract is the July 2007 CFD, priced at $65.86 to $65.92

The margin requirement on most commodities is 3% of the total contract value.

The tick size is 0.01.

The contract value is calculated by this formula:

((Quantity) x (Price))/ Point= initial margin

Therefore if you were to buy 10 US Crude Oil CFDs at $65.92

(10 x 49.50)/ 0.01 x 0.03 = $1,978 initial margin.

The exposure per tick is worth $10.

For online traders, CFDs are an excellent way to gain exposure to the oil market as a speculative play, for hedging purposes, or when searching for good arbitrage possibilities. The markets are liquid and spreads are very attractive.

Mike Estrey is the Head of Research for Blue Index, specialists in Online CFD Trading, Contracts for Difference and Online Forex Trading.

Forex Guide

The term Forex is the short form of Foreign Exchange. Any type of financial instrument that is used to make payments between countries is taken to be foreign exchange. Electronic transactions, paper currency, checks and signed, written orders called bills of exchange are all instruments of foreign exchange.

Forex indicates increased or decreased value of an investment caused solely by currency movements. For instance finding US dollar weak or going down, an investor might purchase German money markets.

There are quite a few forex indicators. For instance

1.Average Directional Movement Index (ADX)- ADX is used when we need to know the direction in which the market trend is going i.e. either downward or upward and how strong the trend is. When ADX readings over 25 indicate a trend with higher values indicating stronger trends.

2.Moving Average Convergence or Divergence (MACD)- MACD presents the momentum of the market and the liaison between two moving averages. When MACD crosses the signal line it shows a strong market.

3.Stochastic Oscillator- Stochastic Oscillator indicates the strength and weakness of a market by comparing a closing price range over a period of time. Stochastic reading above 80 depicts the currency is overbought while its reading below 20 indicates that the currency is oversold.

4.Relative Strength Indicator (RSI)- RSI or the Relative Strength Indicator is a scale of 100 that indicates the maximum and the minimum prices over a specified period. The price rising above 70 implies overbought while the price falling below 30 means oversold.

5.Moving Average- Moving average Forex indicator is the average price for a given time interval in relation to other prices during the similar time periods. For instance the closing prices over a 5-day period would have a moving average of the total of the five closing prices divided by five.

6.Bollinger Bands- Bollinger bands comprise of a majority of a currencys price. There are three lines in the bands out of which the upper and the lower lines stand for the price movement while the middle one represents the average price. When high volatility prevails in the market, greater distance is witnessed between the upper and the lower bands. The time when a band touches one, overbought and oversold conditions are depicted.

Highest liquidity is observed in the forex market. The forex market absorbs trading volumes and per trade size higher than any other market. This liquidity and the freedom to enter and leave the market anytime attract investors to forex.

Forex market is known for its round the clock trading. When Asian market sleeps the European and American markets are awake and vice-versa. This enables the forex traders to take stands despite of time and place.

Another wonderful feature of forex is that in this trading a small margin deposit can control a much larger total contract value. 200:1 leverage makes forex traders buy or sell $100,000 worth of currencies with $500 margin deposit. Thus the traders often end up making hefty profits. Following the principle of buy low and sell high forex trading allows traders to generate outstanding profits.

Forex trading is quite cost-effective in the sense that there are much lower transaction costs than other investment products.

Mansi Aggarwal recommends you visit Forex for more information.