Oil’s Phantom Weekend Price Plunge Catches Traders off Guard
(Bloomberg) -- Weekends are typically a time for rest in the hectic world of oil trading, with the futures markets closed for the duration.
Last Saturday, however, several traders found themselves frantically trying to buy U.S. crude futures as their screens flashed tantalizingly low prices.
The traders said they thought the volume on CME Group Inc.’s system was real, and started buying what appeared to be a $2-a-barrel dip from Friday’s close.
But according to CME, the weekend plunge was part of a test. The company said late Monday in a response to questions from Bloomberg that it has regularly rolled out improvements over the weekend while markets are shut, replaying historical data.
By the time the oil market reopened on Sunday night, the traders had seen their deals disappear. The CME said it should have been evident the market wasn’t really open, although it didn’t say how clients would have known that it was a test.
“Our markets are never open for trade on Saturday,” a spokesperson said. “Any test transactions are not cleared, and do not impact orders or our normal settlement process. This standard operating procedure has been in place for decades.”
During Saturday’s exercise, according to the traders, prices appeared to fall as low as $77.03 a barrel, down from $78.90 on Friday’s close. West Texas Intermediate normally halts trading at 5 p.m. New York time on Friday, before reopening at 6 p.m. on Sunday night. Though prices retreated on Monday, they didn’t fall anywhere close to the $77.03 level they nominally hit during the test. WTI on Tuesday traded above $80 a barrel.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.