Risk disclaimer: 76% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs and Spreadbets with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs and Spreadbets work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.


Navigating the Oil Market: An Introduction to CFD Oil Trading

BY Janne Muta

|July 9, 2024

Oil contracts for difference (CFD oil) offer traders a unique way to engage with the global oil market without needing to own the physical commodity. CFD oil trading enable speculation on price movements, providing flexibility and opportunities for profit regardless of market direction. This differs significantly from traditional oil futures, where physical delivery is a component. Traders leverage oil CFDs for various reasons, including hedging against price volatility, speculating on market movements, and diversifying their investment portfolios.

Overview of the Global Oil Market

Let’s cover the basics first and talk about the global oil market which is a complex and vital component of the world economy, involving numerous key players, extensive infrastructure, and critical international organisations.

Biggest Producers

The top oil producers globally are the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. The US leads due to its advanced hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology, allowing it to tap into vast shale reserves. Saudi Arabia, as a leading OPEC member, plays a crucial role in balancing global oil supply. Russia remains a significant producer, although its role has been impacted by geopolitical tensions and sanctions.

Biggest Consumers

The largest consumers of oil are the United States, China, and India. The US has the highest consumption, driven by its extensive transportation and industrial sectors. China, with its rapid industrialisation and growing middle class, has seen a significant increase in oil demand. India, following similar developmental patterns, is also a major consumer, with its demand expected to grow further.

Global Organisations

Key organisations in the global oil market include OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). OPEC, primarily composed of Middle Eastern and African countries, coordinates oil production policies to stabilise the market. The IEA, which includes member countries from the OECD, provides data, analysis, and policy recommendations to ensure reliable, affordable, and clean energy. CFD oil traders track closely the market impact of reports released by these organisations.

Number of Oil Rigs Globally

As of recent data, there are approximately 1,400 active oil rigs worldwide. This number fluctuates based on oil prices, technological advancements, and political factors. The US, with its large shale oil industry, operates the majority of these rigs.

Number of Oil Cargo Ships Globally

There are around 2,000 oil tankers, also known as crude oil carriers, operating globally. These ships are essential for transporting crude oil from production sites to refineries and then to markets around the world. The fleet includes a variety of sizes, from small coastal tankers to massive super tankers capable of carrying over 2 million barrels of oil.

How CFDs Allow Traders to Speculate on Oil Price Movements

CFDs, or contracts for difference, allow traders to speculate on the price movements of oil without owning the actual commodity. This trading method involves an agreement between the trader and the broker to exchange the difference in the asset's price from the time the contract is opened to when it is closed. This setup permits traders have greater flexibility compared to e.g. oil ETFs that typically are long only products. In order to short the oil market with ETFs traders need to buy a special ETF that is inversely correlated to the price of oil.

Comparison of Oil CFDs with Futures, Options and ETFs

Oil CFDs and traditional oil futures both allow speculation on oil prices but differ significantly in their structure and execution. Futures contracts have an inbuilt aspect to buy or sell oil at a future date for a predetermined price, including the potential delivery of physical oil. This however, rarely takes place in speculative futures trading as traders close their existing positions before the contract month ends thus avoiding the physical aspects of oil trading. In contrast, oil CFDs are open ended financial instruments, with settlements made in cash based on the price difference. In other words, CFD oil contracts never expire and cannot therefore lead to a transaction on a physical oil product.

CFD Oil contracts versus Options on Oil

The comparison between CFDs (Contracts for Difference) and standardised options on oil highlights several key differences. CFDs are traded over-the-counter (OTC), meaning they occur directly between traders and brokers, bypassing formal exchanges. In contrast, standardised options are traded on regulated exchanges like the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), offering greater transparency and reduced counterparty risk.

CFDs are open-ended contracts without a fixed expiry date, allowing traders to maintain their positions indefinitely as long as margin requirements are met. Options, however, come with a specific expiration date, after which they expire worthless if not exercised, adding a time constraint to the trade.

Holding a CFD oil position overnight incurs financing fees, also known as swaps, based on the notional value and prevailing interest rates. Options do not have such fees but their value diminishes over time due to time decay, which is particularly significant for out-of-the-money options as they approach expiration.

The value of CFDs is directly linked to the price movements of the underlying asset (oil), unaffected by implied volatility. On the other hand, the value of options is significantly impacted by implied volatility, with higher volatility increasing the premium of the options, reflecting a higher expected future price fluctuation of the underlying asset.

Key Benefits of Trading CFD Oil

Trading oil CFDs provides several benefits, including

  1. leverage,
  2. flexibility, and
  3. lower capital requirements than futures or options.

Leverage in CFD oil trading enables traders to control larger positions with a smaller initial investment compared to ETFs that are either non-geared products of offer low gearing.

Flexibility comes from the ability to trade both rising and falling markets which would not be as easily facilitated as for instance in Exchange Traded Funds that track oil. The lower capital requirements make CFD oil trading accessible to a broader range of traders.

Regulatory Environment and Legal Considerations

The regulatory environment for CFD oil trading varies by jurisdiction, with different countries imposing distinct rules and requirements to protect traders and maintain market integrity. Traders must be aware of the legal considerations and regulatory frameworks governing oil CFDs in their region to ensure compliance and mitigate risks.

Objectives of Trading Oil CFDs

Traders engage in CFD oil trading for various objectives, including hedging against price fluctuations, speculating on market movements, and diversifying investment portfolios. Hedging allows traders to mitigate risk by offsetting potential losses in their physical oil holdings or other investments while speculation involves taking positions based on anticipated market movements to generate profits. Diversification helps spread risk across different assets and markets, enhancing overall portfolio stability.

How Oil CFDs Work

Basic Concept of CFDs

A CFD, or contract for difference, is a financial derivative that mirrors the price movements of an underlying asset, such as oil. Traders enter into a contract with a broker to exchange the difference in the asset's price from the contract's opening to its closing. This structure enables speculation on price movements without owning the physical asset.

Trading Mechanism

Trading oil CFDs involves opening positions based on market direction. Traders can choose to 'buy' (go long) if they expect oil prices to rise or 'sell' (go short) if they anticipate a price decline. Profits or losses are realised based on the difference between the opening and closing prices. Importantly, CFD trading does not involve physical delivery of oil; instead, settlements are made in cash.

Leverage and Margin

Leverage is a key feature of CFD trading, allowing traders to control larger positions with a smaller initial investment. This amplifies potential returns but also increases risk. Margin requirements in CFD trading include the initial margin, which is the deposit needed to open a position, and the maintenance margin, which must be maintained to keep the position open. Understanding leverage and margin is crucial for managing trading capital and exposure.

Calculating Profits and Losses

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The oil chart above shows an imaginary CFD oil trade example to demonstrate how profit and loss potential of trades is calculated. This example trade setup is a bet that the market could retrace lower and potentially reverse the down move near to or at the nearest support level.

A limit order to buy one CFD oil contract at $82.21 is placed above the 23.6% retracement level. The take-profit order is set at $84.21, offering a profit potential of $2,000. Simultaneously, a stop-loss order at $81.71 is set to limit the potential loss to $500. With one contract, a $0.5 move in oil price equates to a profit or loss of $500.

Costs and Fees

When trading oil CFDs with TIOmarkets.uk trade fees consist of the spread paid at the time of trade entry and the overnight financing charge known as swap. The spread is the difference between the buying and selling prices, which the broker charges as a fee. Note that with some other brokers commissions might be charged per trade, depending on their fee structure. Overnight financing fees apply when positions are held overnight, reflecting the cost of maintaining leveraged positions.

Key Factors Influencing Oil Prices

  • Geopolitical Events: Geopolitical events significantly influence oil prices due to the global nature of the market. Recent crises, such as the Ukraine war and the Hamas attack on Israel, have caused notable disruptions, impacting supply and demand dynamics and leading to price volatility. Traders must monitor geopolitical developments to anticipate potential market movements.
  • Supply and Demand: Supply and demand fundamentals are primary drivers of oil prices. Factors such as production levels, OPEC decisions, and changes in consumption patterns directly impact market equilibrium and price trends. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for successful oil CFD trading.
  • Economic Indicators: Economic indicators provide insights into market conditions and future price movements. Reports from the International Energy Agency (IEA), World Bank economic forecasts, and economic growth data from major economies like China are pivotal in shaping market expectations and influencing oil prices.

Trading Strategies for Oil CFDs

Trend Following

Trend following is a popular trading strategy that involves identifying and capitalising on market trends. Traders use tools such as channel analysis or moving averages (e.g. a Simple Moving Average or SMA to identify uptrends and downtrends. Channel analysis helps confirm trends while support and resistance levels guide in setting entry and exit points. Indicators like ADX provide additional confirmation, while volume analysis supports the reliability of trend signals.

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Identifying Trends

Identifying trends involves analysing price charts to determine the market direction. Moving averages smooth out price data, highlighting the underlying trend. An uptrend is characterised by a repeating pattern of higher highs and higher lows, while a downtrend features lower highs and lower lows.

Economic Indicators

Economic data releases, such as GDP, inflation, and employment reports, significantly impact oil prices. Understanding the relationship between economic indicators and market reactions enables traders to anticipate price movements and develop informed trading strategies.

Geopolitical Events

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Geopolitical events, including conflicts, tensions, and decisions by organisations like OPEC, profoundly influence oil prices. In February 2020 Russia’s all-out attack to Ukraine triggered oil price volatility expansion not seen before it. Weekly candle ranges, as can be seen in the above chart, doubled and sometimes tripled in the early weeks of the war. Monitoring geopolitical developments allows traders to react quickly to market changes and adjust their positions accordingly.

Trading the News

Trading the news involves developing strategies to exploit market volatility during significant events. Traders must manage risk and volatility by setting appropriate stop-loss levels and position sizes, ensuring they can navigate the heightened uncertainty that accompanies news events.

Volatility Management and Risk Control

Risk management is crucial in CFD oil trading due to the market's inherent volatility. One fundamental rule is to limit risk to 0.5% to 2% of your trading capital per trade. The specific percentage depends on your trading experience: beginners should lean towards the lower end of this spectrum, while seasoned traders with a proven track record of positive expectancy can afford to risk more.

For beginners, keeping risks lower is essential as they are still developing their strategies and learning market behaviours. Experienced traders, on the other hand, who have statistical evidence of their strategies' long-term profitability, can safely increase their risk percentage.

Another important aspect of risk management is the placement of stop-loss orders. Stops that are set too close to the entry price are likely to get triggered by normal market fluctuations. Therefore, it’s essential to place stops at a distance that aligns with your statistical edge. This strategy helps in preventing premature exits and maximising potential gains.

Maintaining constant risk per trade is vital. Instead of altering the risk percentage, adjust your position size based on the distance between the entry and stop-loss prices. For example, if your risk is set at 1%, your position size should vary according to how close or far your stop-loss is from your entry price. This approach ensures that your market exposure varies while your risk remains constant.

Additionally, adjusting your trade size based on your confidence level is a strategic move. If you have high confidence in a trade, you may risk slightly more. Conversely, if there are uncertainties or mixed signals, it’s wise to reduce your trade size. This flexible approach allows you to capitalise on high-probability trades while protecting your capital when the market conditions are less favourable.


In conclusion, trading CFD oil with TIOmarkets.uk offers a range of advantages, including leverage, flexibility, and lower capital requirements, making it accessible to both novice and experienced traders. Whether your focus is on intraday trading, swing trading or trend following oil CFDs provide an easy-to-use tool for engaging with the global oil market dynamically and efficiently. Stay informed and be strategic to maximise your trading potential in this volatile market. Ready to start trading? Open a trading account with TIOmarkets.uk today and tap into the opportunities of oil CFD trading.

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While research has been undertaken to compile the above content, it remains an informational and educational piece only. None of the content provided constitutes any form of investment advice.

TIO Markets UK Limited is a company registered in England and Wales under company number 06592025 and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FRN: 488900

Risk warning: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 76% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. Professional clients can lose more than they deposit. All trading involves risk.

DISCLAIMER: TIO Markets offers an exclusively execution-only service. The views expressed are for information purposes only. None of the content provided constitutes any form of investment advice. The comments are made available purely for educational and marketing purposes and do NOT constitute advice or investment recommendation (and should not be considered as such) and do not in any way constitute an invitation to acquire any financial instrument or product. TIOmarkets and its affiliates and consultants are not liable for any damages that may be caused by individual comments or statements by TIOmarkets analysis and assumes no liability with respect to the completeness and correctness of the content presented. The investor is solely responsible for the risk of his/her investment decisions. The analyses and comments presented do not include any consideration of your personal investment objectives, financial circumstances, or needs. The content has not been prepared in accordance with any legal requirements for financial analysis and must, therefore, be viewed by the reader as marketing information. TIOmarkets prohibits duplication or publication without explicit approval.

Janne Muta

Janne Muta holds an M.Sc in finance and has over 20 years experience in analysing and trading the financial markets.

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