Bloomberg News is reporting that for the first year since the commodity futures were created, Brent crude is poised to overtake West Texas Intermediate oil as the world’s most-traded commodity. That would be a first.
Daily trading in Brent jumped 14 percent to average 567,000 contracts in the year to Nov. 20 compared with all of 2011, while WTI fell 17 percent to 575,000, according to data from the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London and New York Mercantile Exchange compiled by Bloomberg. The number of Brent futures changing hands has exceeded those for WTI every month from April through October, the longest streak since at least 1995.
And yet, U.S. media focuses primarily on WTI crude.
Brent, produced in the North Sea, is gaining favor among traders because of its role as the benchmark for energy prices from Saudi Arabia to Russia. Prices have climbed 34 percent in the past two years, reflecting everything from war in Libya to the embargo on Iran. WTI, the main grade in the U.S., has risen 9 percent as the nation, which prohibits crude exports, has struggled to clear a glut at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for Nymex futures.
Bloomberg expects Brent to gain the upper hand. “Brent crude will grow in significance,” Angelos Damaskos, manager of the Junior Oils Trust, which invests about 45 million pounds ($72 million) in energy companies, said by phone from London on Nov. 20. “The market is looking at Brent as the international leading index for traded crude. It will be a trend that will continue for a very long time.”
WTI’s discount to Brent will narrow next year with the expansion of a pipeline that transports crude from Cushing to refineries in Texas and Louisiana, according to Greg Sharenow, who co-manages $30 billion of commodity investments at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California.
Additionally, the Seaway pipeline, operated by Enbridge Inc. (ENB) and Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD), will be able to send 400,000 barrels a day from Cushing to the Houston area from Jan. 1, compared with 150,000 a day now, Enterprise Chief Executive Officer Mike Creel said on Nov. 13.
To date, Brent has averaged $111.91 a barrel this year, and WTI $94.78, putting the North Sea marker closer to the average price of a basket of crudes sold by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, at $109.74.