US oil boom a costly surprise for traders

Vastavam web: The world’s biggest oil traders are counting hefty losses after a surprise doubling in the price discount of U.S. light crude to benchmark Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1 in just a month, as surging U.S production upends the market. Trading desks of oil major BP and merchants Vitol Gunvor and Trafigura have recorded losses in the tens of millions of dollars each as a result of the “whipsaw” move when the spread reached more than $11.50 a barrel in June, insiders familiar with their performance told.

The companies declined to comment, and none of them publish details of their individual trading books. It highlights the challenges of trading in WTI futures CLc1, the benchmark for U.S. crude, when U.S. pipeline and storage infrastructure struggles to keep pace with surging shale output, that has lifted the United States above Saudi Arabia to become the world’s second biggest crude producer behind Russia. The discount of WTI to Brent hit $11.57 a barrel on June 6, the widest in more than three years, as U.S. output surged to record highs and surpassed pipeline capacity as traders rushed to export. The discount had been about $5 just a month before.

Betting on the price spread, a popular trade in oil markets, is based on predictions of price differences between European and U.S. market fundamentals.