Options traders are betting more than ever that crude oil is heading to $200 a barrel as some websites call for a “Day of Rage” in Saudi Arabia and anti-government protests spread in the Middle East and North Africa.
The CHART OF THE DAY shows open interest, or the number of outstanding contracts, for “call” options to buy New York crude for June delivery at $200 a barrel. The number has escalated, along with crude futures, to the highest since the options started trading in July 2009 amid worsening civil unrest in Libya and rare demonstrations in Saudi Arabia.
“If you look at the volatility and increase in money for call options in the last month or so, it does suggest that market participants are now more worried about the upside,” said Yingxi Yu, a Singapore-based commodity analyst with Barclays Plc. “People are also quite concerned about protests spreading across different parts of the region.”
Saudi Arabia produced 9.71 million barrels a day in 2009, one-third of OPEC output and almost six times as much as Libya, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy. Websites have called for a nationwide “Day of Rage” on March 11 and March 20, Human Rights Watch said Feb 28. Protests in five of the kingdom’s eight immediate neighbors have prompted King Abdullah to boost spending on housing, social welfare and education to curb unrest in his country.
“The price of oil is going to go up, whether you like it to or don’t,” said Juerg Kiener, chief investment officer at Swiss Asia Capital Ltd. in Singapore. “If Saudi Arabia fails, then I say you have a fire in the house. They gave out $30 billion of money so maybe they’ll buy time. But I don’t see the problems disappearing.”
Call options grant the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy a security at an agreed price before a set date. The $200 June New York crude options expire May 17. Oil rose to $106.45 a barrel today, the highest intraday price since Sept. 29, 2008
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