Market Movement

What does the low price of oil mean for you as an investor?

We have seen global oil demand drop by 25 million barrels a day as the majority of the world economy has shut down to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week was a historic week for the oil markets, as for the first time ever, futures contracts for West Texas Intermediate Crude traded negative to start the week.  Oil investors and traders were rushing to sell the May futures contracts as no one wanted to take delivery of oil, as there is nowhere to store it.

What does that mean for you as an investor?

We have seen global oil demand drop by 25 million barrels a day as the majority of the world economy has shut down to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Going back to Economics 101, we are dealing with basic supply and demand issues for the price of oil.

As of today, there is a tremendous excess supply of oil.  With global demand down 25% and oil storage capacity almost completely full, we have no place to store additional barrels of oil.  Therefore, prices have to come down to combat excess supply.  How do oil prices eventually go back up? 

* Upstream companies begin cutting back on capital spending and reducing production – i.e. active rig counts have fallen over 40% this month.

* OPEC must cut oil production.

* Most importantly, when the global economy reopens, demand for oil will increase, thus causing prices in the future to increase.

A question that we receive often is, “How do I invest in oil in this very volatile time?  The future price of oil has to go up, right?”

For retail investors, unfortunately, there is no easy way to invest in the current price of a barrel of oil (often referred to as spot price).  Unlike gold, you cannot take possession of a barrel of oil, store it in your garage, and then sell it in the future when the price of oil has gone back up.  There are several ETF’s (exchange-traded funds) that use futures-based pricing.  These ETFs do not have good tracking records to accurately track the current price of oil.  For example, USO, the most heavily traded ETF, saw massive inflows last week as retail investors try to “buy the dip” in oil prices.  However, each month this ETF and others like it, have to continually roll into the next month future contract and end up paying more for the price of oil than in the current spot market.  This “contango” occurs as the price of a futures contract on oil is higher than the current price.  Consequently, we could actually see oil prices rise and the owners of the Exchange Traded Funds lose money.

In summary, while we all hope that the future price of oil will rise, there are no guarantees.  We can expect the price of oil to continue this volatile trend as the world navigates the unprecedented global pandemic.


This material contains an assessment of the market and economic environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results.  Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties.  Actual results, performance, or achievements may differ materially from those expressed or implied.  Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC.  This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual.  It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. 

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS) an affiliate of Kestra IS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS are not affiliated with CD Wealth Management.

Join our mailing list!

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox each week? Sign up for our Market Insight & Connection newsletter.

* Required Field

More Insights on Market Movement