An exchange traded fund that tracks Brent crude futures is up nearly 20% this year while the WTI version is in negative territory with the outperformance driven by Middle East tensions.
U.S. Brent Oil Fund (NYSEArca: BNO) is up 19.6% year to date.
However, from a technical perspective, some analysts see a bearish pattern playing out that could take Brent down to $96 a barrel, according to a Bloomberg report.
U.S. Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO) tracks futures based on light, sweet crude oil delivered to Cushing, Okla. The ETF is down about 2% this year, according to investment researcher Morningstar. Since the ETFs invest in futures contracts which are “rolled” to maintain exposure, they can be hurt by “contango” in the futures market. [Commodity ETFs: Understanding Contango]
Over 2011, the price of Brent crude has oscillated between $92.4 and $127 a barrel as traders sent price swinging after disruptions from the high-quality Libyan crude and the following quick resolution to the country’s social unrest, Middle East riots, U.S. credit-rating downgrade and the ongoing Eurozone debt crisis, reports Selina Williams for The Wall Street Journal.
Brent crude is trading around $107 a barrel.
For 2012, new geopolitical risks, especially an embargo on Iran, along with unrest in Middle East countries and supply disruptions from Syria, Yemen and Libya may all contribute to higher prices. However, prices could be tempered by slow economic growth in the Eurozone as the debt crisis lowers demand. [Oil ETFs Rise on Supply Concerns]
“There are lots of key risks for next year: downside is macro, upside is geopolitics,” Amrita Sen, oil market analyst at Barclays Capital, said in the report. “That key tug of war over the latter half of this year will definitely continue, at least into the first half of next year.”
Analysts believe oil prices will be softer going into the first quarter due to E.U. problems and weak oil demand on warm weather.