Required for manufacturing as well as energy generation, and with limited and variable supply, Oil can be a volatile fast moving market.
Crude oil is a naturally occurring petroleum product commonly used in energy production and manufacturing. It is typically purchased with the intent to be refined into everyday uses such as diesel, gasoline, heating oil, jet fuel, plastics, cosmetics, medicines and fertilisers. As such its price has a dramatic impact on the global economy. In general, higher oil prices tend to undermine economic growth as this increases travel and shipping expenses, which increase inflationary pressures and thus personal consumption typically weans. Two of the major classifications for crude oil are US Oil, commonly referred to as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and UK Oil, or Brent Blend. These are both characterized as being “light” and “sweet” crude oils, meaning they have a low density (making it easier to refine and transport) and lower sulphur content (which results in less impurities, making it cheaper to refine). Therefore, they tend to be more expensive than their “heavy” or “sour” counterparts as they are closer to the desired finished products noted above.
Oil prices are significantly influenced by the balance of supply and demand since it is so heavily consumed on a daily basis. Terms frequently mentioned when referencing this supply vs. demand relationship in oil are “production”, “supply”, “demand” and “oil inventories”. This basically boils down to two major consortiums: the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – OPEC is the group responsible for producing around 40% of the world’s oil, while OECD is accountable for just over 50% of the world’s demand for oil. If production levels exceed consumption demand, then inventories are said to “build” whereby the excess supply can be stored and vice versa. Traders often look to gauge the level of consumer demand by looking at the relative strength or weakness in global economies via monitoring GDP, retail sales, consumer spending, etc. and then seeing how this stacks up to projected inventories. Sentiment in the financial markets also tends to play a major role in the price of oil.