Why Negative Prices Exist and What They Can Teach Us


Last week? The price of the May twenty twenty West Texas intermediate crude oil futures contract known as WTI fell to as low as negative thirty seven dollars per contract that means the holder who was long oil was willing to pay to exit the contract. Cnbc markets reporter. Pippa Stevens wrote on Monday for the first time on record west Texas intermediate the US oil benchmark plunged below zero and into negative territory before Monday. Many thought this was impossible. Maybe just maybe it could drop to zero effectively erasing. All value but negative territory seemed unimaginable. Not least because it's hard even to wrap one's mind around it pay someone to take your oil in this episode. We're going to see why oil prices went negative. We'll also look at other examples of negative prices and why they exist and what we can learn from them. The WTI futures contract has a physical settlement which whoever holds the contract when it expires receives a barrel of oil the contract settles in Cushing Oklahoma. That's where that of oil is delivered if he owned the contract. That's where you're going to get your oil or at least arrange for somebody to store it for you. Us crude inventories are near an all time record high. In cushing Oklahoma. Seventy percent of the storage capacity was four as a mid April and a Reuters. Article suggested that most of the available space already leased out. There's nowhere to put that oil. That is being received as part of the future contract settlement. Now the May oil futures contract has since expired and now the June oil futures contract is the front month contract that will expire in the third week of May. Yesterday the June contract fell twenty five percent just under thirteen dollars. They United States oil. Etf USO fell fifteen percent. It has lost eighty three percent year to date leveraged exchange traded funds tied to oil have shut down. They lost all the money products by wisdom tree. Ubs and velocity shares which is owned by Janice. Jim Cramer said there are times in life where people know that there's an instrument that is faulty and they can shoot against that instrument and bury these people there is this financial problem people who are buying the USO that United States oil energy T.F. Bay our financial people. So if you're a real person or you're a large contractor a large player they can wipe out the USO in. I think that's been what's going on. It's not a conspiracy. It's a reality when you have an organization that can't take delivery. Well you should crushed that organization every time and that's what probably happened. Who are these people that are getting crushed that own USO? Well some of them are retail investors. But most are institutional investors John Highland. He's now retired but he was the former investment officer of the United States Commodity Fund which manages USO. He pointed out that eighty percent of USOC shares are held by non retail investors hedge funds include energy trading desk and other professional players the purpose of this ETF was to allow investors to get exposure to the front month contract of oil at the end of twenty nine thousand nine. It had one point. Two billion dollars under management and the vast majority of its investment at the end of December was in the February wti crude oil futures contract that expired in January every month this ETF would sell that contract right before it expired. And then by the next contract in order to make money it needed to sell that contract for a higher price than what it paid for it right now when you look at the price of West Texas intermediate crude futures contract or is a steep premium as you go further out

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