Shanghai Crude Oil Futures Debut

Many awaited the launch eagerly, seeking to tap China's bustling commodity markets, although doubts remain whether the Shanghai futures contract will be able to become another worldwide oil benchmark.

"We've seen already this morning it appears to be a liquid contract from the off", said David Martin, JPMorgan Chase & Co's Asia Pacific head of global clearing, at an event for the launch in Shanghai.

Inventory data is driving prices, said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates in London.

Skeptics argue that hurdles such as capital controls, regulatory risk and market intervention in other Chinese securities have made investors cynical about the prospect of Shanghai futures becoming a regional price-setter.

China kicked off its first ever crude futures on Monday.

Although the exchange will have an overnight trading session to match late European and early USA trading, it will close for more than six hours before trade resumes in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg pointed out that Anglo-Swiss Glencore Plc and Swiss-based Trafigura Group commodity trading companies executed crude deals on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange platform along with other foreign companies, indicating their interest in China's oil futures.

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The early involvement of big worldwide players was a morale boost to the fledging market, but state oil majors like PetroChina and Sinopec are expected to provide a significant amount of liquidity in the long term. "Anything lower than expectations will turn around weakness that we're seeing today".

Oil's decline Monday was "simply profit taking after the large upward move last week, as well as the fact that around $70 Brent and $66 WTI have been the ceiling for several months now", Michael Corley, president of Mercatus Energy Advisors, told MarketWatch.

In dollar-terms, that puts Chinese crude prices significantly below Brent and only slightly above US WTI. Brent crude futures were at $69.65 per barrel, down 46 cents, or 0.7 per cent.

Futures for September settlement opened at 440 yuan a barrel, up from a reference price of 416 yuan.

Both benchmarks had lost some of last week's gains by afternoon trading on Tuesday, ahead of the API, with the WTI benchmark down by $0.87 (-1.33%) to $64.68, and Brent trading down $0.61 (-0.88%) at $68.91 at 4:04 pm EST.

While the nation hopes to establish a benchmark for global oil transactions, whether the Asian nation would achieve that goal has been the subject of hot debate. Some 18,540 lots have reportedly been sold and purchased so far.

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