Below is a crude oil price return calculator which will return the difference in price of oil between any individual dates since 1987. This isn’t technically an investment return – it doesn’t factor in contango or backwardization, so investor returns will vary compared to price returns. However, it is useful to view the price of Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Crude Oil as a function of time and with a daily resolution, along with an adjustment for inflation.
- Starting Date – The starting, base crude date. The data goes back to May 20, 1987, so there should be plenty to play with here. (This may be modified by the tool if there is missing data – take a look after you hit calculate).
- Ending Date – The finishing crude oil date. Again, it will probably cap you with yesterday, or maybe the last trading day. (This may also be modified by the tool if there is missing data – take a look after you hit calculate).
- Total WTI Crude Return – This will either be the total price return on a barrel of WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude or the same return adjusted for inflation. The adjustment will be noted in the ‘Inflation Adjusted’ field.
- Annualized WTI Crude Return – This number is simply the above Total WTI Crude return using the start and end dates to determine an annual rate.
- Total Brent Crude Return – This will either be the total price return on a barrel of Brent crude or the same return adjusted for inflation. The adjustment will be noted in the ‘Inflation Adjusted’ field.
- Annualized Brent Crude Return – This number is the above Total Brent Crude return using the start and end dates to determine an annual rate.
- Inflation Adjusted (CPI-U)? – Whether the calculation you did is using CPI adjusted values as explained in the Daily Inflation Calculator methodology section.
Methodology for the Crude Oil Price Return Calculator
The WTI Crude Oil prices are from the St. Louis Fed as are the Brent Crude Oil prices. Those contracts generally trade Monday – Friday, so the tool will adjust your input dates for the ‘last valid date’ if you select a day where there is no data. For the ‘last’ or ‘ending’ date, it will use the ‘last valid’ trading number, but likely won’t adjust the date (you can check the field after you ask it to run the math).
The daily inflation methodology hasn’t changed from the daily inflation calculator. Please see the methodology section there.
WTI vs Brent Crude Prices
The de facto benchmark for crude oil prices used to be West Texas Intermediate. However, a number of oil fields in the North Sea source Brent Oil, and it has taken over contract pricing – many other forms and qualities of oil and distillates are now based on the Brent contract price and some multiple.
I don’t want to pick sides here, however – so for the purposes of this calculator I decided to do both. To see the decoupling of the two major benchmarks for crude oil, here’s a graph of the two as of the weekend the calculator was built (the tool will be up to date, however):
Red is Brent, blue is WTI.
Enjoy the crude oil price return calculator!