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Uncertainty in the oil markets are driving the front-month contracts to trade at about 10 percent cheaper than the six-month futures, which are now moving at a premium, said Roberto Friedlander, head of energy trading at Brean Capital.
While January WTI futures closed on Tuesday at about $36.14, the July contracts were priced at about $40.21 — more than an 11 percent premium.
"You look back historically, we've seen this about 20 to 25 times in the last 20 or so years," he said. "In each case, you saw WTI be about 20 to 25 percent higher three to six months out."
The tables have turned as the U.S. crude oil traded at parity with the international Brent on Tuesday. The expert considers that the shift in the spread resulted from Congress lifting a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports this past week.
"A lot of guys have factored this in: when the export ban gets lifted that spread between WTI and Brent was going to collapse," Friedlander noted. "We're going back to historical norms, actually if you look back 15-plus years ago — Brent typically traded at a discount to WTI, WTI is the more easily refinable crude, so that's the lifting of the export ban."
WTI settled at $36.14 up 33 cents, or 0.92 percent. Meanwhile, Brent settled at $36.11, down 24 cents, or 0.66 percent. The WTI last settled above Brent in August 2010.
In recent weeks, energy has weighed on the markets, but Friedlander says investors should still put their money in this sector.
"I still think you can go with the better refiner names; it's harder to model in," he said. "There's still a margin to be made with the refiners."