Several hundred thousand crude oil contracts trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) on a typical day.
Look closely at the details of the session's activity and you'll see prices like $68.08, the closing price for October crude on Sept. 1.
You'll probably notice that December 2010 crude settled at $75.07 and that the more time passes, the higher the price goes. For instance, traders have set the price for crude that will be delivered in December 2015 at $85.11.
Those prices all strike me as very high.
Then I realized I was shopping in the wrong store. The place to buy oil isn't at the New York Mercantile Exchange, it's a few blocks away at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
It's not impossible, unethical or immoral. But it may well be the deal of a lifetime. That price is roughly 7 cents on the dollar for a barrel of crude that will cost nearly $70 just a little way down the street.
Let me show you how I did it.
It would cost $26 billon to buy every single share of Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC). So let's assume I (could) write that check.
What would I get in return?
Well, from the CEO's perspective, I'd own an industry leader in oil and gas exploration.
From the CFO's point of view, I'd have a company with $19.6 billion worth of net assets that typically generates between $3 billion and $6 billion in cash from operations each year.
But from my perspective, the most important thing I would own is Anadarko's 2.37 billion barrels of crude oil reserves.
That oil is worth about $165 billion at today's prices. And it will be worth $237 billion on the day coming soon when I believe oil prices will hit $100.
Bottom line: If I buy Anadarko for $26 billion, I get $165 billion worth of oil.
Don't have $26 billion laying around? Hey, don't feel bad. I don't either. But I can buy a single share of Anadarko's stock for about $53. That share, one of 450.9 million, entitles its owner to a tiny share of the company's assets. That might not seem like much, but it works out to 4.6 barrels of oil. That's $312.80 worth of oil for $53 -- and you get the rest of the company, which also has significant natural gas inventory, for free.
Believe it or not, I found four other companies that offer oil even cheaper than Anadarko.
As you can see from the table, individual investors like you and me can buy oil for a far better price than the hotshot commodity traders.
|Company||Market Cap||Crude Reserves||Barrel Cost|
|St. Mary Land||$1.7B||51.4M||$33.07|
The winner in the cheap-oil derby, then, is BreitBurn Energy Partners (Nasdaq: BBEP), a limited partnership based in Los Angeles with 103.6 million barrels of reserves. You can purchase one share of this company on the Nasdaq for less than $10 a share. But in per-share crude reserves alone, that share is worth about $140!
In aggregate, BreitBurn can be bought for $483 million. Its oil is worth $7.4 billion. You can buy BreitBurn's crude for less than the $7.92 it typically costs Big Oil to produce a barrel.
That's a steal. It won't last long, either. Most of these oil companies are trading in the bottom half of their 52-week ranges, even though oil has already rebounded +75% off its lows . As the price of this commodity inches ever closer to $100 a barrel, these oil producers' shares prices could be poised to take off.
Interested in oil? It's a great investment as the economy rebounds. You can buy oil at the New York Mercantile Exchange or you can buy it at the NYSE. It's entirely up to you. The only question is whether you want a good deal or whether you want the deal of a lifetime.