Investors have many options for getting involved with oil. These methods come with varying degrees of risk and range from direct investment in oil as a commodity, to indirect exposure in oil through the ownership of energy-related equities. Each of these investment types can be acquired through an online brokerage account.
One direct method of owning oil is through the purchase of oil futures or oil futures options. Futures are highly volatile and involve a high degree of risk. Additionally, investing in futures may require the investor to do a lot of homework as well as invest a large amount of capital.
Another direct method of owning oil is through the purchase of commodity-based oil exchange-traded funds (ETFs). ETFs trade on a stock exchange and can be purchased and sold in a manner similar to stocks. For example, buying one share of the U.S. Oil Fund (USO) would give you exposure to roughly one barrel of oil.
In addition, investors can gain indirect exposure to oil through the purchase of energy-sector ETFs, like the iShares Global Energy Sector Index Fund (IXC), and to energy-sector mutual funds, like the the T. Rowe Price New Era Fund (PRNEX). These energy-specific ETFs and mutual funds invest solely in the stocks of oil and oil services companies and come with lower risk.
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There are many ways that you can invest in oil commodities. You can even buy actual oil by the barrel.
Crude oil trades on the New York Mercantile Exchange as light sweet crude oil futures contracts, as well as other commodities exchanges around the world. Futures contracts are agreements to deliver a quantity of a commodity at a fixed price and date in the future.
Oil options are another way to buy oil. Options contracts give the buyer or seller the option to trade oil on a future date. If you choose to buy futures or options directly in oil, you will need to trade them on a commodities exchange.
The more common way to invest in oil for the average investor is to buy shares of an oil ETF.
Finally, you can also invest in oil through indirect exposure by owning various oil companies.