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Source: US Energy Information Administration

Both the notional values and absolute levels of total contracts outstanding (open interest) and of all contracts traded per day (volume) for crude oil futures contracts have declined in 2020 relative to the start of the year. While the decline in notional value has been primarily driven by lower crude oil prices, changes in volume and open interest have also played an important role. Like prices, open interest and volume for Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) have been volatile throughout 2020. Earlier in the year, open interest and daily trading volume of futures contracts neared or set all-time highs in March and April 2020 as a result of multiple factors. These factors include the delayed renewal of the production agreement between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries (OPEC+), economic responses to COVID-19, and a volatile trading environment that, among other effects, resulted in negative WTI crude oil prices in late April. The volatility these factors produced has resulted in both large increases and decreases in open interest and volume. On net, from the end of 2019 through November 16, 2020, 30-day average trading volume declined by 1%, open interest declined by 5%, while the notional values of each declined by about 31%. …