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The price of Brent crude oil can be highly volatile, moving up and down based on global supply and demand dynamics, geopolitical events, and a variety of other market factors. 

For traders and investors, these price swings can present opportunities to try and profit by speculating on Brent’s future direction. One way this can be done is through exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the price of Brent crude oil.

In this article, we’ll look at how ETFs provide a simple and efficient way to bet and the ETFs and ETNs you must consider trading. 


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What Affects Brent Crude Oil Pricing?

The price of Brent crude oil is heavily influenced by global supply and demand dynamics in the oil market. To be specific, these are the following: 

  • OPEC and other oil-producing nations like Russia and the United States set production levels. OPEC production quotas, in particular, significantly affect global oil supply. Lower quotas from OPEC generally lead to higher oil prices.
  • Global economic growth and activity drive demand for oil and petroleum products. Higher economic growth tends to increase oil demand and push prices up, while slower growth can soften prices.
  • Geopolitical events like conflicts, sanctions, or instability in key oil-producing regions. These can cause supply disruptions and drive prices higher.
  • Inventory and storage levels of crude oil and refined products like gasoline. Higher inventories tend to put downward pressure on prices while declining stockpiles push prices up.
  • Weather events like hurricanes can disrupt drilling operations or refinery output.
  • Technological developments like shale drilling can rapidly bring new supply sources online.

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an example of how dramatic swings in demand can impact pricing. Lockdowns caused Brent prices to plunge below $20/barrel in 2020 as oil demand collapsed. 

A bar graph displaying a decline pattern set against a blue background symbolizing the impact of COVID 19


But prices rebounded above $80/barrel in 2021 as economies reopened and demand recovered.

Oil pricing volatility creates opportunities for speculative traders to try capitalizing on oil market swings through futures, options, and other instruments. 

Learn more by checking out this useful article: Brent Oil Price Shocks And Impact On The Global Economy


Features of Brent Crude Oil ETFs

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) offer a straightforward way for traders and investors to gain exposure to movements in the price of Brent crude oil. 

ETFs trade on stock exchanges just like stocks, aiming to closely track the daily price performance of an underlying index or commodity.

Here are the characteristics of ETFs that make them useful for speculating on Brent crude price moves:

  • Cost-effective - ETFs have lower expense ratios than actively managed mutual funds. This reduces the cost of trading in and out frequently.
  • Liquidity - Large ETFs based on indexes like Brent have high daily trading volumes and tight bid-ask spreads. This allows for efficient entries and exits.
  • Transparency - ETF holdings are disclosed daily, clarifying exactly what assets the ETF owns.
  • Flexibility - ETFs can be traded at any time the market is open. Stops and limits can be applied for risk management.
  • Shorting ability - Most ETFs can be sold short, allowing speculators to profit from falling Brent prices.

ETFs now offer direct exposure to front-month Brent crude oil futures contracts. This gives traders a precise way to make directional bets on anticipated near-term moves in the price of Brent oil.

Give this article a read: Crude Oil Commodities - Guide to Oil Spread Betting


4 Tradable Assets in Brent Crude Oil

Here are the most widely traded ETFs and ETNs that provide exposure to Brent crude oil price movements:

1. United States Brent Oil Fund LP (BNO)


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BNO is one of the most popular liquid ETFs directly exposing Brent crude oil prices. It holds front-month ICE Brent futures contracts that are rolled periodically. BNO has over $300 million in assets under management (AUM). 

It trades over 500,000 shares per day on average, providing ample liquidity. This ETF can apply to short-term trading strategies to capitalize on movements in Brent oil prices. The fund directly reflects Brent futures price changes.

2. Invesco DB Oil Fund (DBO)

DBO tracks an index of futures contracts on Brent crude (50%) and WTI crude (50%), providing exposure to the two major global oil benchmarks. With around $400 million in AUM, DBO provides a more diversified oil futures exposure compared to pure Brent oil ETFs. DBO may be preferable for investors seeking a balanced oil futures position rather than isolating Brent crude specifically.

3. UBS ETRACS CMCI Brent Crude Oil Total Return ETN 

This asset is an exchange-traded note that provides exposure to front-month Brent crude oil futures contracts. As an ETN, it carries credit risk from the issuer UBS. However, it does directly track Brent futures prices. It has lower assets at around $60 million. The light trading volume can lead to wider bid-ask spreads.

4. iPath Pure Beta Crude Oil ETN 

It tracks an index of near-term WTI and Brent crude oil futures contracts, weighted 75%/25%, respectively. This ETN structure provides more diversified crude oil exposure across the two benchmarks. Similar to previous ETNs, this also carries issuer credit risk. However, the index methodology aims to provide pure crude oil futures beta.

Some more diversified ETFs and ETNs hold baskets of commodity futures, including exposure to Brent crude oil. These can be used to implement broader commodity trading strategies with exposure to energy markets.

You might also like to read: 7 ETF Trading Strategies


Rounding Up

For traders interested in speculating on movements in Brent crude oil prices, ETFs offer an accessible and efficient asset class. The liquidity, transparency, and leverage of Brent oil ETFs make them well-suited for implementing short-term trading strategies to profit from anticipated price swings. 

Given the volatility of the oil markets, traders need to conduct research and educate themselves before deploying capital. There are risks involved. 

But by using prudent position sizing and risk management, oil ETFs can provide experienced traders with an engaging way to participate in the ups and downs of the Brent crude oil market.

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“When considering “CFDs” for trading and price predictions, remember that trading CFDs involves a significant risk and could result in capital loss. Past performance is not indicative of any future results. This information is provided for informative purposes only and should not be considered investment advice.” 

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