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China Opens Market of Oil Futures in Yuans
27 March 2018, 03:11 | Maryann Sutton
Oil prices find support in trade talks and Mideast tensions
China launched its first ever yuan-denominated oil futures contract in Shanghai on Monday, marking the first time foreign investors will have access to Chinese commodity futures as the world's top crude importer seeks greater influence over global prices. The contracts, which are open to foreign investors, end years of delays and setbacks since China's first attempt to list the securities in 1993.
Analysts said western oil traders were attracted to Shanghai's oil contracts for the potential arbitrage between China's market specifics and global oil fundamentals as reflected by U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and worldwide Brent crude futures.
"President Donald Trump continues to suggest the United States will pull out from (the) Iran nuclear deal, which raises the spectre of bringing back sanctions on the country and severely limiting Tehran's ability to export crude oil", Innes said.
Few analysts doubt Asia is overdue for a financial oil price benchmark - or that China, with its vast consumer and production base, is a prime location for it.
In the longer term, the futures exchange will enable China's crude-buying patterns to become more transparent to the world. This contract will be more in-line with local supply and demand fundamentals. "This is large enough to start influencing Oman prices, which are retroactively set by the Oman Ministry of Oil and Gas", says Gupta.
"Whether this will have any real bearing on the other crude benchmarks, I'm not quite sure, but traders love a new toy, so I applaud China for bringing in something that could stoke up some volatility", said Matt Stanley, a fuel broker with Freight Investor Services (FIS) in Dubai.
"Oil prices are on the ups driven by rising geopolitical risk in the Middle East", said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore. Once established, China's reference crude prices could also act as a regional benchmark for negotiations of spot or term crude oil prices in other markets, such as Japan and South Korea. Wood Mackenzie pointed to the precedence from the iron ore and coal markets where China's domestic prices and importing patterns are now treated as reference points for the industry.
Yuan-denominated trading and a blend of new rules and regulatory burdens will also likely hamper initial take-up on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange (INE), executives at a dozen banks and brokers and experts involved in the launch told Reuters.
Futures contracts are used to fix prices today for later delivery, usually within 60 days.
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