Much like any other asset class, the value of oil moves up and down on a second-by-second basis. This makes it highly conducive for short-term trading. You are not restricted to long positions, either.
That is to say, you can profit from both rising and falling markets when trading oil online. UK investors can also trade oil with leverage of up to 1:10 – meaning that you can amplify your account balance by a factor of 10x.
In this guide, we explain everything there is to know about trading oil in the UK. This includes an explanation of how oil trading works, how you make money, what strategies you should consider, and how you can get started with an investment account today.
- 1 What is Oil Trading?
- 2 Oil Trading Price
- 3 Ways of Trading Oil
- 4 Oil Trading Companies
- 5 How to Make Money Trading Oil
- 6 Oil Trading UK Risks
- 7 Oil Trading Strategies
- 8 Oil Trading Tips
- 9 Best Oil Trading Platforms for 2020
- 10 Oil Trading UK Pros & Cons
- 11 How to Start Oil Trading – Tutorial
- 12 Step 1: Open an Oil Trading Account
- 13 Conclusion
- 14 FAQs
What is Oil Trading?
By trading oil, you are looking to predict whether the value of the asset will go up or down in the open marketplace. After all, the price of oil is dictated by market forces.
That is to say when demand outstrips supply, the price of value will increase. Naturally, if supply is greater than demand, then the price of oil will fall. This demand and supply conundrum is that seasoned oil traders will look to capitalise on. In terms of accessing the market, anyone in the UK can buy and sell oil.
This is because you will likely be using a CFD broker that is regulated by the FCA. For those unaware, CFDs track the value of an asset in real-time, meaning that you can trade oil without taking ownership.
Here’s an example of how an oil trade would work in practice:
- Oil is currently priced at $42 per barrel
- You think that in the coming weeks, the price of oil will be significantly higher
- As such, you place a buy order worth £750
- Your prediction was correct, as oil is now worth $70
- This represents an increase of 66%, so you exit the trade to lock in your gains
- On a total stake of £750, you made a profit £495
As you can see from the above example, by correctly predicting whether the price of oil would go up or down, you made a profit. It goes without saying that if your prediction does not come to fruition, then you will lose money. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can mitigate your potential losses when trading oil in the UK – more on this later.
Oil Trading Price
It is important that you understand how the value of oil can go up and down in the open marketplace. After all, you will be looking to make money by correctly predicting which way the markets move in the short-term.
Below we have listed some of the fundamentals of crude oil trading prices.
USD Per Barrel
First and foremost, as oil is a commodity purchased and consumed by nations of all shapes and sizes, it makes sense that there is a global standing in the pricing department. Put simply, oil is traded in US dollars per barrel. For example, at the time of writing oil is priced at $37.27 per barrel.
This means that you need to predict whether the price of one barrel will move higher or lower than $37.27. Your profit or loss will be determined by the percentage in which the price of oil moves. For example, if you stake £500 and oil increases by 10%, then you would make or loss £50 depending on the market order in which you placed.
In order to facilitate the buying, selling, and trading of oil on a cross-border basis, there are several price reference benchmarks in place. This operates in a similar nature to a third-party stock exchange, insofar that the benchmark will display ever-changing buy and sell prices. This is based on market demand.
There are two benchmark indexes in particular that dominate oil trading price action – Brent and WTI.
- Brent Crude: The Brent Crude benchmark is the leading reference oil point outside of the US.
- WTI Crude: The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is the main oil benchmark used in the US.
Although both Brent and WTI Crude indexes will be priced differently, market movements are typically very similar. For example, if there is a major oversupply of oil, then both benchmark indexes will suffer. Similarly, if tensions in the Middle East interrupts the global supply of oil, both indexes will increase in value.
Demand, Supply, and Geo-Political Events
As is the case with traditional investment arenas like stock trading, ETF trading, and forex trading – the price of oil is heavily dependent on demand and supply. In simple terms, if the demand for oil is on the increase, its price should follow suit.
Similarly, if there is less demand for oil, the price will decrease. With that being said, there is no investment sector quite like oil that is so heavily influenced by geopolitical events. This is because the demand and supply of oil are largely dictated by the ‘Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC).
Consisting of 14 oil-producing nations, OPEC is a crucial player in the industry. Led by Saudi Arabia, the organisation will artificially control the supply of oil which in turn, will influence its price.
For example, in order to fend off US-based share oil producers, OPEC regularly oversupplies the market by increasing production levels.
In doing so, it knows that this will reduce the global price of oil and subsequently make it unviable for US producers. At the other end of the spectrum, OPEC can artificially increase the price of oil by cutting back on production levels. As this will result in less oil in circulation, demand will outweigh supply. This means that its market price will increase.
Ways of Trading Oil
If you’re interested in trading the short-term value of oil, there are several ways that you can do this.
As we briefly covered earlier, the easiest way of trading oil is to use a CFD broker. This is because the underlying asset does not exist. Instead, the CFD instrument will track the real-world price of oil on a second-by-second basis. The CFD trading platform will obtain its market price from one of the leading benchmark indexes – Brent or WTI.
- The price of oil on the Brent Crude benchmark is $27.50
- Your chosen CFD broker also offers a price of $27.50 on oil
- You placer a $100 sell order, meaning that you think the value of oil will go down
- A few days later, oil is priced at $24.10 on the Brent Crude benchmark
- Similarly, your CFD position is also priced at $24.10
- As such, you’ve made gains of 12.36% so you exit the CFD position by placing a buy order
We should also note that CFDs are a highly cost-effective way of trading crude oil in the UK. This is because the best FCA brokers allow you to do this without paying any commission. Furthermore, and as we explain in more detail later, CFDs can be traded with leverage. In particular, you can trade oil with leverage of 1:10.
While CFDs are highly conducive for targeting short-term price movements, futures are worth considering if you want to keep your trade open for a slightly longer period of time. This is because futures contracts typically come with a duration of 3 months. Each futures contract will have a price attached to it – say $50 per barrel.
You are then required to predict whether you think the price of oil will close above or below $50 when the futures expire in 3 months. On the one hand, those in possession of an oil futures contract on the date of expiry are legally required to buy or sell the underlying asset.
This would be problematic for you, as it means you would need to take ownership of the physical barrels. On the other hand, you can offload your oil futures contracts at any given time before they expire. This puts the burden of settling the contract onto somebody else.
Here’s an example of how a futures contract would work when trading oil.
- The price of a 3-month oil futures contract is $30
- Each contract contains 1,000 barrels of oil
- This means that the total value of the order is $30,000
- You are long on the contract, meaning that you think oil will increase in value
- 2 months into the contract, oil is priced at $35 per barrel
- As such, you lock in your profits by selling the contracts on the open market
- Your 1 futures contract consisted of 1,000 barrels, so you made a total profit of $5,000 ($5 per barrel x 1,000)
As you can see from the above, oil futures usually consist of 1,000 barrels, meaning that trade sizes are huge. However, the investor in this example would have likely traded on margin. This means that they would have only been required to put up a small percentage of the position size in advance.
You can also trade oil via options. The options trading scene works in a similar nature to futures, insofar that you will be looking to predict whether the price of oil will increase or decrease before the contracts expire.
However, options are generally considered to offer a lower-risk approach to crude oil trading in the UK, as you won’t have a legal obligation to buy or sell the asset on expiry. Instead, you are given the ‘right’ to settle to contract. Furthermore, you only need to pay a small premium to access the market. If your prediction is incorrect, this is all that you can lose.
If you think that oil will increase in value, you will be buying call options. If you think the opposite, you will be buying put options.
Here’s an example of how options work when trading oil:
- You are looking at a 3-month oil options contract with a ‘strike price’ of $40
- The premium required to access the contract is $2
- Each options contract consists of 1,000 barrels of oil
- You think that the price of oil will close above $40 in three months, so you buy some call options
- Your total outlay is $2,000 ($2 premium x 1,000)
When the contract expires, oil is priced at $50 per barrel. As this is more than the strike price of $40, we have made a profit.
- Your gross profit is $10 per barrel ($50 strike price – $40 closing price)
- You paid a premium of $2, so you are left with a net profit of $8 per barrel
- Your options contract consisted of 1,000 barrels, which leaves you with a total profit of $8,000
Much like futures trading, you can offload your options contracts anytime from when you enter the market right up until the expiry date. However, the value of your options contract will go up and down depending on the current market price of oil.
Oil Trading Companies
Although the main focus on this article has been on trading the value of oil, you might consider buying shares in oil ad gas trading companies that are active in the space. In doing so, you won’t be as interested in short-term pricing trends. Instead, you are investing in the future value of the oil company.
In theory, there is a direct correlation between the market value of oil, with that of the company’s share price. For example, when the price of oil hit lows of just under $20 per barrel on the back of the coronavirus lockdown, major oil shares crashed in a matter of weeks.
For example, BP started 2020 with a share price of 480p. However, by mid-March, the very same shares were priced at 240p. This represents an uncanny reduction of 50%. In particular, each oil company will have a ‘break-even’ price. For example, it is believed that BP has a break-even price of $35 per barrel. This means that when the global price of oil falls below this figure, BP is making a loss.
Nevertheless, buying oil shares will allow you to invest in the commodity without taking an active role. In other words, once you make an investment, there is nothing more to do until you decide to cash the shares out. Alternatively, you might also consider an oil ETF if you are looking to invest in its long-term value. In doing so, your chosen ETF provider will buy and sell oil shares on your behalf.
If you want more information about buying oil shares, you can read our in-depth guide here.
How to Make Money Trading Oil
In terms of making money from oil trading in the UK, this will come in the form of capital gains. This refers to the amount of profit that you make when you enter and exit a position.
- Let’s say that you place a buy order on an oil CFD worth £1,000
- A few weeks later, oil is worth 20% more
- This means that your CFD position is now worth £1,200
- You place a sell order to close the position
- This leaves you with capital gains of £200 – less fee
If you are looking for specific money-making examples of oil futures or options, please refer to the sections above.,
It is important to remember that commodity trading assets like oil do not generate income. For example, while stocks often distribute dividends and bonds entitle you to coupon payments, the oil simply moves up and down in value.
With that said, if you are looking to combine capital gains and dividends, you might be better suited for an investment in oil stocks. You can either select individual companies like BP, Tullow Oil, and Premier Oil – or opt for an ETF.
Oil Trading UK Risks
There are many risks associated with oil trading in the UK. You should make sure that you have a firm grasp of how these risks can negatively impact the value of your investment before taking the plunge.
- Losing Trades: In order to make money from crude oil trading, you need to correctly determine whether the price of oil will go up or down. If you get this wrong, you will make a loss. Ultimately, if you encounter more losing trades than winning ones, you will end up with less money than you initially started with.
- High Volatility: Even when market conditions are stable, oil is a lot more volatile than blue-chip stocks and bonds. This means that the value of your investment will go up and down much faster. This can be somewhat nerve-racking if you’re trading oil for the first time.
- Loss of Potential Income: When trading oil, you will be missing out on income-generation opportunities – such as stock dividends or coupon payments.
Oil Trading Strategies
In order to mitigate the risks of losing money, it is imperative that you have at least one oil trading strategy to draw from. There are heaps of such strategies to choose from – both from a technical and fundamental perspective.
Listen to OPEC
You can make use of all of the advanced technical indicators and pricing algorithms that you like – nothing is more important than OPEC in the world of UK oil trading. That is to say, when OPEC speaks, you should listen. In fact, you should expect immediate price action on oil whenever the organisation releases a verbal or written publication.
For example, let’s suppose that OPEC announces that it is planning to increase production levels by 20% over the coming 6 months. Within seconds of the announcement, it is all-but-certain that the price of oil will begin to increase. This goes back to the demand and supply conundrum that we discussed earlier.
To give yourself the best chance possible of capitalising on OPEC announcements, we would suggest tuning in to the bi-annual meeting that is televised live. You can watch this directly on the OPEC website.
While OPEC plays a major role in the demand and supply of oil, you should broaden your horizons by keeping up to date with other key developments.
- For example, increased tensions in the Middle East has historically had a negative impact on the price of oil. Similarly, global travel restrictions as per the coronavirus pandemic saw demand for oil reach record lows.
- In turn, this saw the price of oil go down at a rapid pace.
The key point here is that you can trade oil on the back of important news and geopolitical developments. In order to achieve this goal, we would suggest signing up with a news website like Yahoo Finance. Once you add oil to your watchlist, you can elect to receive real-time notifications as and when a relevant news story breaks.
Some oil traders in the UK look to focus exclusively on the technicals. This means that they study in-depth charts with the view of finding pricing trends.
The trader will then evaluate how this trend might impact the future value of oil. In order to achieve this, not only will need to have a firm grasp of how to read and interpret charts, but you’ll also need to be comfortable deploying technical indicators. This includes everything from Bollinger Bands, the Fibonacci Retracement, MACD, and RSI.
It is important to note that technical analysis is more suited for short-term pricing movements. In fact, those who use oil day trading strategies will rarely keep a position open for more than a few hours. Scalping traders go one step further, as they’ll often keep a position open for no more than a few minutes.
Oil Trading Tips
Keen to start trading oil online but still somewhat hesitant to take the plunge? If so, below you will find five crude oil trading tips to help point you in the right direction.
Tip 1: Try Oil Trading Signals
Oil operates in a super fast-paced environment. As we noted earlier, a single announcement by OPEC can result in the price of oil moving up or down in a quick fashion. Ultimately, you are competing against seasoned traders that know how to capitalise on technical and fundamental developments.
With this in mind, it might be worth considering oil trading signals. This operates much the same as cryptocurrency and forex signals, insofar that your chosen provider will send you trading ‘suggestions’ in real-time. You will then be required to act on the suggestion by placing a series of market orders.
The oil trading signal is likely to include the following:
- Whether you need to trade WTI or Crude
- The type of financial instrument (CFDs, futures, etc.)
- Whether you should be going long or short
- What entry price you should execute the position at
- What stop-loss and take-profit orders should be placed
As you can see from the above, the best oil trading signals will provide you with all of the required information to be able to act on the suggestion.
Tip 2: Read an Oil Trading Book
If you’ve read our guide up to this point, then you will know just how complex the world of oil trading is. For example, you need to learn everything from how to interpret OPEC meetings, how to utilise oil CFDs, futures, and options to your advantage, and what technical indicators are important to master.
As such, it might be worth reading a series of oil trading books. Popular examples include:
- Oil Traders’ Words: A Dictionary of Oil Trading by Jargon Stefan van Woenzel
- Oil 101 by Morgan Downey
- The King of Oil by Daniel Ammann
It is also worth supplementing the above books with a fully-fledged oil trading course.
Tip 3: Read Oil Trading News & Analysis
This particular tip will reiterate what we have discussed throughout this page. That is to say, if you want to make consistent gains trading oil, you need to be kept abreast of key market developments. Crucially, any news story that has the slightest potential to impact the value of oil – you need to be aware of in real-time.
As we noted earlier, the easiest way to achieve this is to sign up to a third-party new platform like Yahoo News. In doing so, you can elect to have oil news notifications pop-up on your phone or desktop device. You will be surprised just how quickly your oil trading knowledge improves by staying in touch with the market day in, day out.
Tip 4: Practice Oil Trading via a Brokerage Demo Account
Virtually all UK oil trading platforms allow you to sign up for a demo account. This will allow you to trade in live market conditions, ut on a risk-free basis. For example, upon registering an account with FCA broker eToro, you’ll be given a $100,000 demo account facility.
You can do everything from place buy and sell orders, apply leverage, and ultimately- test out oil trading strategies. When you start returning consistent gains, you might then consider upgrading to a real money account.
Tip 5: Create a Risk Management Plan
Seasoned oil traders all have one thing in common – they have a sensible risk management plan that they stick to religiously. This starts at the very offset with the amount that you stake in relation to your account balance. The general rule of thumb in the UK oil trading space is to never risk more than 1-2% of your bankroll.
For example, if you have a £500 balance, your maximum loss should never exceed £10. You can vastly improve your chances of avoiding big losses by installing stop-loss orders on each and every oil trade that you place. This instructs the broker to close a losing position when it reaches a certain point.
Best Oil Trading Platforms for 2020
So now that we have armed you with a range of oil trading tips and strategies, you now need to start thinking about which broker you plan to use. There are many factors that you need to consider before joining a UK oil trading platform. For example, the types of financial instruments supported, fees and commissions, and crucially – where the broker is regulated.
As this can be a time-consuming process, we have compiled a list of the best oil trading platforms of 2020.
1. eToro – Overall Best Oil Trading Platform UK
eToro is an online broker that is regulated by the FCA, ASIC, and CySEC. With more than 12 million traders under its belt, eToro is often the go-to platform for first-time investors. This is because the broker offers a user-friendly trading arena that consists of thousands of financial instruments. In the case of accessing the oil markets, eToro offers several options.
First and foremost, you can trade oil CFDs. This allows you to choose from a buy or sell position, and you can apply leverage of up to 1:10. The minimum investment for oil CFDs is $200. For those of you that are looking to trade the long-term value of oil, eToro offers a United States Oil Fund market. If going long without leverage, this allows you to trade oil without paying a single penny in commission.
Although CFDs are also commission-free at eToro, you will need need to pay overnight financing fees for each day that you keep the position open. This is industry-standard across all CFD brokers. However, with the United States Oil Fund, you can keep your position open for as long you wish without worrying about ongoing fees. This particular marketplace requires a minimum investment of just $50. You will also have access to various oil-focused ETFs – such as the SPDR S&P 500 Oil & Gas market.
Another great thing about eToro is that it’s the world’s leading social trading platform. You can interact with over 12 million other traders, and you can even copy their portfolios courtesy of eToro’s CopyTrader and CopyPortfolios tools.
Alternatively, if you might consider buying oil shares such as BP or Royal Dutch Shell. Once again, all shares and ETF investments at eToro are commission-free. Ultimately, eToro gives you heaps of options to profit from ever-changing oil prices – both on a short-term and long-term basis. If you like the sound of this FCA broker, eToro requires a minimum deposit of just $200. It supports a variety of UK payment methods, such as debit/credit cards, e-wallets, and a bank transfer.
|Inactivity fees||$10 a month after 12 months inactivity|
- Super user-friendly online stock broker
- Buy stocks without paying any commission or share dealing charges
- 800+ stocks listed on the UK and international markets
- Deposit funds with a debit/credit card, e-wallet, or UK bank account
- Ability to copy the trades of other users
- FCA and FSCS protections
- Not suitable for advanced traders that like to perform technical analysis
75% of retail investors lose money trading CFDs at this site
2. Capital.com – Trade Various Oil Markets Commission-Free
Capital.com is a CFD provider that is also super-popular with newbie investors. This is because its platform can be used by traders of all skill sets. You simply need to select which instrument you wish to trade, enter your stake, and that’s it – you’re good to go. In terms of oil trading products, this FCA broker offers a variety of markets.
For example, there are CFD markets on both Brent and WTI crude. Both markets come with tight spreads of just 0.06 pips, which is very competitive. Capital.com also allows you to trade oil futures in the form of CFDs. This works in the same way as traditional futures, albeit, you won’t own the underlying contract.
Regardless of the oil trading market you decide to opt for at Capital.com, the platform does not charge any commissions. Instead, everything is built into the spread. There are no fees to deposit or withdraw funds either. Best of all, you can start trading with a deposit of £20 when using a debit/credit card or e-wallet.
|Commission||0% (spreads on CFDs)|
|Inactivity fees||$10 a month after 12 months inactivity|
- Trading on hundreds of US and UK shares
- Educational app for new traders
- AI assistant identifies your weak points
- Trade ideas generated daily
- Excellent charting and analysis interface
- 100% commission free trading
- Cannot build custom trading strategies
72.6% of retail investors lose money trading CFDs at this site.
3. FXCM – Reputable UK Oil Broker with MetaTrader 4
FXCM is popular with UK investors that wish to trade oil via MetaTrader 4 (MT4). After all, the third-party trading platform comes packed with advanced tools. This includes dozens of technical indicators, bespoke market orders, and the ability to install automated trading systems.
With that said, FXCM offers a lot more than just MT4. For example, each and every financial instrument at the platform can be traded on a commission-free basis. Spreads are also tight, with Brent Crude futures costing just 0.04 pips. You can also trade WTI Light Sweet futures a spread of 0.5 pips.
If you’re more interested in spot trading, you can trade both Brent and WTI prices in the form of CFDs. Leverage of up to 1:10 is offered on all oil trading markets at FXCM. You can open an account in minutes and deposit funds with a debit/credit card, e-wallet, or bank wire. Finally, your money is well ringfenced at the broker. Not only does it hold an FCA license, but FXCM has been active in the online trading scene for over two decades.
|Commission||0% (spreads on CFDs)|
|Inactivity fees||$50 a year after 12 months inactivity|
- Supports MetaTrader 4 and Ninja Trader
- A long-established and reputable broker
- FCA Licensed
- Mobile trading app
- No commission and tight spreads
- CFDs only
- Less shares than other brokers
73.05% of retail investors lose money when trading CFDs at this site
Here’s a comparison of what each oil trading broker offers.
|UK Oil Broker Fees||Charge Per Trade||Deposit Fee||Oil Leverage|
Oil Trading UK Pros & Cons
- Trade oil from the comfort of your home with an FCA broker
- Profit from rising and falling markets
- Choose from CFDs, futures, or options
- Invest in oil companies via stocks and ETFs
- UK investors can trade oil with leverage of up to 1:10
- Lots of commission-free oil trading platforms to choose from
- Oil can be very volatile
- There is every chance that you will lose money
How to Start Oil Trading – Tutorial
To conclude our comprehensive guide on UK oil trading, we are now going to walk you through the process of getting set up with an investment account. The steps below are based on our top-rate oil trading broker – eToro.
Step 1: Open an Oil Trading Account
You’ll first need to head over to the eToro homepage and open an account. This will require some personal information, contact details, and a username and password.
You will also be asked to submit a copy of your passport or driver’s license. Additionally, you’ll need to upload a recently issued bank account statement or utility bill.
Step 2: Deposit Funds
eToro requires a minimum deposit of $200. You can choose from the payment methods listed below.
- Debit Card
- Credit Card
- Bank Transfer
Step 3: Place a Trade
eToro offers multiple oil trading markets. This covers everything from oil CFDs, ETFs, and stocks. In our example, we are looking to trade the United States Oil Fund, as all long orders are commission-free and attract no overnight financing fees.
Upon selecting your oil trading market, you will need to set up an order. Simply select from a buy/sell position, enter your stake, and decide how much (if any) leverage you want to apply.
Once you confirm the order, your oil trade will remain in the market until you close it.
The UK oil trading scene is growing in popularity for several reasons. Not only can you profit from both rising and falling prices, but most brokers allow you to trade oil with leverage of up to 1:10.
This means that a £100 deposit would permit a maximum trade value of £1,000. Additionally, there are many ways to trade oil. Whether you prefer CFDs, futures, ETFs, or traditional shares – there is an oil trading market to suit most investing goals.
If you’re looking star oil trading in the UK right now, eToro allows you to do this on a commission-free baiss. The FCA broker offers leverage facilities, instant payments, and a super user-friendly trading platform.
eToro – Best Oil Trading Platform in the UK
75% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
What are the oil trading hours?
This will vary depending on the specific benchmark - such as whether you wish to trade the WTI or Crude index price. Additionally, your chosen broker will often dictate what hours you can trade oil, so be sure to check this before signing up.
What is difference between WTI and Brent Crude oil?
Both WTI and Crude and benchmark indexes for oil prices. The former is used in the US, while the latter is often considered to be the global standard.
How do you trade oil in the UK?
You can trade oil online by joining a UK broker. There are several ways to access your chosen market, such as CFDs, futures, and options.
How do you short oil?
The easiest way to short-sell oil is to use a CFD broker. You simply need to place a sell order.
Can you invest in oil?
If you think that the future value of oil will increase, then you are best off finding a broker that offers a commission-free market that is free from overnight financing fees. One such example is the United States Oil Fund market offered by eToro. As long as you are long without leverage, you can keep the position open for as long as you want without paying any fees