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Oil market opens up to black box trade.

LONDON/NEW YORK: Black boxes control only a small share of oil futures, but their reach is growing, driven by an influx of cross-asset dealers. Those who rely on computer power to generate profit from split-second price moves vary from Wall Street banks to small hedge funds. Their presence in oil trading began with the shift on oil futures markets towards electronic trade and has gathered momentum as volatility has risen and as fall-out from the financial crisis has given a spur to cross-asset deals. "We have seen a solid increase of black box based trading in oil in the past couple of years. But oil is way, way behind other markets because it is a specialist market, it has physical trade," said Paul Zubulake, senior analyst with US consulting firm Aite Group. There are no official figures on the extent of high-frequency trading, which include black box and algorithmic trade, on the oil futures market, but Zubulake estimated it had risen to around 10 per cent. On US equities markets, where electronic trading dates back to the 1970s, industry analysts say automated trading accounts for an estimated 60-70 per cent of volume on US equities markets. Oil exchanges gradually introduced electronic trade over several years and the Atlanta based-InterContinental Exchange (ICE) went fully electronic in 2005. The New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) still has open outcry trading, but bigger volumes are generated electronically. A more recent spur has been this year's trading environment in which oil has been unusually tightly linked to bigger financial markets. A prolonged equities rally set in around March, while the US dollar began a steep slide as confidence in economic recovery drove investors away from relative safe havens and towards riskier assets. Oil has risen in tandem with rising equities and a weakened dollar, which makes dollar-denominated oil relatively cheap. Some foreign exchange trading takes place on the electronic platform Globex, owned by the CME, where the volume of crude oil futures trade has been rising steadily. Part of that volume is made up of a new breed of cross-asset dealers trading on the negative correlation between the dollar and oil.

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Publication:Oil & Gas News
Date:Nov 22, 2009
Words:377
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