Why Trade Heating Oil? Surprising 1.6% Growth Makes For An Interesting Bet In 2020

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Should I Invest in Heating Oil?

Quick overview of three commonly cited reasons people are interested in investing in heating oil:

Heating Bill Hedge: People who live in cold climates and use heating oil to heat their homes may want to invest in the commodity in advance of the winter months.

Using a heating oil investment to protect against the cost of winter utility bills may be a sensible risk mitigation strategy.

Bet on Growth: Investing in heating oil also provides a way to bet on global economic growth. As emerging markets expand, many analysts believe that fossil fuel demand will outstrip supply and lead prices higher.

Also, newly developed areas often lack natural gas infrastructure and need heating oil as a source of fuel.

Diversify Your Portfolio: Heating oil may be a viable way to diversify an investment portfolio. Most traders have assets heavily concentrated in equity and fixed income markets.  

Commodities provide diversification as they generally have low correlations with stocks and bonds.

All investments carry the possibility of losses, so traders should consider the risks of investing in heating oil. Some risks include:

  1. Warmer than average weather could send prices lower.
  2. Strength in the US dollar could produce weakness in commodities prices including heating oil.
  3. Alternative sources of heating and technological advances in insulation materials could depress demand for heating oil.

What Do the Experts Think About Heating Oil?

Most experts agree that the price of heating oil is closely tied to both crude prices and refinery capacity.

What Experts Think of Investing in Heating Oil

In the view of many analysts,

growing demand for crude combined with strains on refining capacity could drive heating oil prices higher.

Janet Kong, a senior executive with multinational oil company, BP, believes that demand for distillates such as heating oil is driving higher global demand for crude oil. Other analysts concur with this view:

“The big surprise … has been on the distillate side, where it looks like we will hit 1.6 percent growth.”

-Matti Lehmus, vice president of oil products at Neste Oil

Robert Campbell, head of oil products analysis at Energy Aspects, believes that strong demand for refined oil products is incentivizing refineries to increase their output of products.

How Can I Invest in Heating Oil?

Investors have a few direct and indirect ways of investing in heating oil:

Heating Oil Trading Methods Compared

Method of InvestingComplexity Rating (1 = easy, 5 = hard)Storage Costs?Security Costs?Expiration Dates?Management Costs?Leverage?Regulated Exchange?
Heating Oil Futures5NNYNYY
Heating Oil Options5NNYNYY
Heating Oil ETFs2N*NNYN**Y
Heating Oil Shares2NNNNYY
Heating Oil CFDs3NNNNYY

*Most energy ETFs invest with futures and avoid storage costs.
**Some energy ETFs offer exposure to 2X or 3X the movement in commodity prices.

Heating Oil Futures

The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), a commodities and futures exchange operated by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), offers a heating oil futures contract that settles into 42,000 gallons of heating oil per contract. The contract trades globally on the CME Globex electronic trading platform.

Futures are a derivative instrument through which traders make leveraged bets on commodity prices. If prices decline, traders must deposit additional margin in order to maintain their positions.

Heating oil futures contracts expire on the last business day of the month preceding the delivery month.

At expiration, traders must either accept physical delivery of heating oil or roll their positions forward to the next trading month. Investing in futures requires a high level of sophistication since factors such as storage costs and interest rates affect pricing.

Heating Oil Options

The NYMEX offers an options contract on heating oil futures. Options are also a derivative instrument that employ leverage to invest in commodities. As with futures, options have an expiration date. However, options also have a strike price, which is the price above which the option finishes in the money.

Options buyers pay a price known as a premium to purchase contracts. An options bet succeeds only if the price of heating oil futures rises above the strike price by an amount greater than the premium paid for the contract. Therefore, options traders must be right about the size and timing of the move in heating oil futures to profit from their trades. Heating oil options contracts expire three business days prior to the expiration of the underlying futures contract.

Heating Oil ETFs

These financial instruments trade as shares on exchanges in the same way that stocks do. There is currently only one pure-play heating oil exchange-traded fund (ETF):

  • The United States Diesel-Heating Oil Fund LP –

In addition, there are many ETFs that invest more broadly in the energy sector including these popular funds:

Shares of Heating Oil Companies

There are many companies engaged in extracting, refining and selling crude oil and crude oil products. While these companies are not pure-play investments in heating oil, the performance of their shares is correlated with crude oil and refined crude products.

Shares of oil companies also react to other factors including the performance of management and the stock market in general.

5 Leading Diversified Oil Companies

CompanyCurrent PriceOverviewExchangeFoundedNumber of EmployeesInteresting Fact
BP Logo
Headquartered in London but the USA houses the lion share of its operations.London (LSE),
Frankfurt (FWB),
New York (NYSE)
190874,000+Burmah Oil Company, the company that eventually became BP, was the first to discover oil in the Middle East.
Exxon Mobil Logo
American multinational oil and gas corporation.New York (NYSE)199980,000+Largest refiner in the world with a capacity of nearly 6m barrels per day.
Total S.A.
Total SA Logo
French energy multinational.Paris (CAC),
New York (NYSE),
Amsterdam (Euronext)
1924100,000+Total has over 900 subsidiaries covering all areas of energy.
Royal Dutch Shell
Shell Logo
British-Dutch multinational headquartered in The Netherlands.London (LSE),
Amsterdam (Euronext),
New York (NYSE)
190790,000+Shell has over 40,000 service stations worldwide.
ConocoPhillips Logo
The world's largest independent pure-play exploration and production company.New York (NYSE)187512,000+Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Co. merged in 2002 then in 2012 spun off its downstream assets as Phillips 66.

CFDs for Heating Oil

One way to invest in heating oil is through the use of a contract for difference (CFD) derivative instrument. CFDs allow traders to speculate on heating oil prices without purchasing ETFs, futures, options or shares of oil companies.

The value of a CFD is the difference between the price of heating oil at the time of purchase and the current price. CFD traders, therefore, have direct economic exposure to the commodity.

Where to Trade Heating Oil?

If you are looking to get started trading heating oil or other commodities, here’s a list of regulated options available in to consider.

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CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 73.90%-89.00% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

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