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Frequently Asked Questions

How does buying oil futures work?

Oil futures trading works on a standardized instrument, which can be traded right up until the last trading day specified in the instrument. Investors often buy oil futures on margin, meaning that they don't pay the entire price up front; they typically pay anywhere from two to ten percent of the price of the contract.

Do oil futures prices help predict future oil prices?

As the figure reveals, although the oil price risk premiums are close to zero on average, they are quite large and volatile over time. This suggests that oil futures prices are not necessarily the best predictor of future oil prices. The current, or spot, oil price may also help predict future oil price movements.

When were oil futures first traded?

The history of oil futures trading in the US began on the NYMEX in 1978 with heating oil futures. Heating oil futures were the first of the energy-related commodities or by-products to utilize futures trading.

Why are oil prices so high?

High oil prices are caused by high demand, low supply, OPEC quotas, or a drop in the dollar's value. Demand for oil and gas follow a predictable seasonal swing. Demand rises in the spring and summer due to increased driving for summer vacations. Demand drops in the autumn and winter.


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