A grim X'mas, bonus blues for oil traders

A grim X'mas, bonus blues for oil traders

SINGAPORE - It will be a blue Christmas for most oil traders here this year.

They can forget about receiving the equivalent of last year's bonuses of 6-12 months, industry players told BT.

"They'll be lucky if they can get 1-3 months, if any at all," one trading boss said.

"Some may not even keep their jobs, as it was difficult to deliver results in a market that was largely in backwardation for most of the year," another said, referring to the market condition in which the futures price of oil is lower in the distant delivery months than in the near delivery months.

In fact, a top trader described 2012 as the toughest year he could recall.

This sentiment was echoed by another trader, who said the last time he was in such a difficult market was in the mid-1980s, during an oversupply of crude.

"This time around, it's essentially due to the lack of oil demand because of sluggish global economies," the trader said.

The trading boss said the oil market has been in backwardation for the past 6-9 months, affecting trading in products from fuel oil to gas oil and middle distillates.

Only the light end of the barrel, like gasoline and naphtha, was spared, so a lot of traders got hit, he said.

The tough fuel oil market, for instance, saw Swiss commodity giant Glencore - which controls listed marine fuel supplier Chemoil Energy - selling off Chemoil's Helios Terminal in Singapore in October.

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