Oil futures are traded electronically at the New York Mercantile Exchange from 18:00 till 17:15 EST daily, starting at Sunday 18:00 and closing at Friday 17:15. This means that you can trade oil futures almost 24-hours a day. Since no single human being will be physically able to participate in the whole trading session, you might be wondering what hours are best to trade oil futures.
Besides the electronic trading, the NYMEX still hosts an open outcry for oil futures. The open outcry is the classic form of trading, where brokers try to make trades by screaming to sell or buy oil. This floor trading happens Monday till Friday from 09:00 till 14:30 EST. The volatility in the price of oil futures is normally the highest during these sessions, so if you are looking for action, these might be your best hours to trade crude oil.
The Asian trade session, as we generally consider the time frame from 19:00 till 04:00 EST (Tokyo trading times), is usually very thin. This is a bit changing however, as China’s impact on oil prices is getting bigger. But for the time now, most of the traders are waiting for European or American stock exchanges to open and provide direction for oil futures. So if you prefer to trade with low volatility, the Asian session might be the best hour of oil trading for you.
The European session start at the London Stock Exchange, and runs from 03:00 till 12:00 EST. There is quite some overlap with the American session which start at 08:00 EST in New York, and runs till 18:00 EST with the close of the Chicago stock exchange. Especially the overlap between Europe and America, from 08:00 till 12:00 EST, provides a lot of volume at the exchange. High volatility can be expected during those times.
Best Trading Hours
If we combine European trading, American trading, and the open outcry, we get the craziest time for oil futures. This time frame runs from 09:00 till 12:00 EST and will carry the highest liquidity during the day. This is the time where most big financial institutions generate their profits.
However, for you as a private trader, the best trading hours are those that feel most comfortable to you. Define your style of trading and decide if you prefer a high or low volatility time frame.