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The oil price is often in the financial news as a key economic indicator so it is not surprising that many researchers are interested in historical oil price data.
Crude oil is traded worldwide but there is not a single oil price. The Financial Times world markets summary includes two crude oil benchmarks: WTI (West Texas Intermediate) and Brent. Historic data is available for these from several sources. One of the most convenient is Quandl (see Quandl – a search engine for time-series datasets for more information)
The screenshot below shows a oil price chart for “Brent Crude Oil Spot Price, Sullomn Voe, Scotland” from Quandl’s crude oil prices.
Historical oil prices are also available from several databases:
Bloomberg Professional has the greatest detail of commodity trading and related news. Most of the trading of oil on financial markets deals with oil future (paying now for oil to be delivered at a specific date in the future) rather than the spot (current) price. Benchmarks include Brent Crude (EUCRBRDT) and WTI (USCRWTIC)
Datastream from Thomson Reuters includes numerous historical time series of oil prices among its commodity category. Benchmarks from Thomson Reuters include Brent (OILBRDT) and WTI (OILWTIN) crude oil.
Global Financial Database (GFD) also have these benchmark oil prices. (GFD) has historical prices for Brent and WTI crude oil (select GFDatabase and series type Commodity Prices). GFD has data for Brent going back to 1957 and WTI going back to 1860.
Passport (formerly GMID) from Euromonitor also has crude oil prices for Brent and WTI Cushing. However, these are only annual prices – if you want monthly or daily prices then the databases above are better.
In many circumstances it is acceptable to use any of these sources for historical crude oil prices but your text or references should make your choice clear. If you are getting other research data from Bloomberg or Datastream it makes sense to get your oil prices from the same source.
The previous oil price post (January 2011) included this oil price chart showing that Brent and WTI have been almost identical. On closer inspection the two series chosen are from different sources: OILBRNP (Brent) is from ICIS Pricing while OILWTIN (WTI) is from Thomson Reuters themselves.
(There are sometimes small differences in data from alternative sources – which is why Thomson Reuters make these available to their Datastream customers. For researchers the key questions are usually the time-span and frequency of historical data, and whether our Datastream subscription includes access.)
This previous post also prompted comments about getting historical data for TAPIS (Malaysian) crude. This is available on Bloomberg (APCRTAPI) from December 1986 and Datastream (OILTPMY) from January 1991. See http://bizlib247.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/oil-price-historical-data/#comments
Here is a compilation of some of those websites, most of which have an English language option. If you find one for a country that is not in the list below, please suggest it in the comments.
|Country/Region||National statistics website name||Website name in English (where available)|
|Austria||Statistik Austria||Statistics Austria|
|Belgium||Statistics Belgium||Statistics Belgium|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Federalni zavod za statistiku||Federal Office of Statistics|
|Catalonia (Spain)||Institut d’Estadística de Catalunya||Statistical Institute of Catalonia|
|Chile||Registro Civil e Identificación||-|
|Czech Republic||Český statistický úřad||Czech Statistical Office|
|Denmark||Danmarks Statistik||Statistics Denmark|
|Finland||Befolkningsregistercentralen||Population Registration Centre|
|France||Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques||National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies|
|Hungary||Közigazgatási és Elektronikus Közszolgáltatások Központi Hivatala||Central Office for Administrative and Electronic Public Services|
|Iceland||Hagstofa Íslands||Statistics Iceland|
|Ireland||Central Statistics Office||Central Statistics Office|
|New Zealand||The Department of Internal Affairs||The Department of Internal Affairs|
|Northern Ireland||Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency||Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency|
|Norway||Statistisk sentralbyrå||Statistics Norway|
|Poland||Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych||Ministry of Interior and Administration|
|Scotland||National Records of Scotland||National Records of Scotland|
|Slovenia||Statistični urad Republike Slovenije||Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia|
|Spain||National Statistics Institute of Spain||Instituto Nacional de Estadistica|
|Sweden||Statistiska centralbyrån||Statistics Sweden|
|Turkey||Türkiye İstatistik Kurumu||Turkish Statistical Institute|
|United Kingdom||Office for National Statistics||Office for National Statistics|
|United States||Social Security Administration||Social Security Administration|
Stock market indices (e.g. FTSE 100, S&P 500, Nikkei 225, DAX, Shanghai SE, BSE Sensex, Bovespa) have constituents that change over time. For example, the FTSE 100 is the largest companies (by market capitalisation) on the London Main market and is regularly reviewed. It changes as some companies grow faster than others, through merger and acquisition activity, and also when large companies list.
Current constituents are usually readily available on the web, but getting the historical constituents often requires a specialist database.
Using Datastream you need a little knowledge of the mnemonics for constituent lists. For example:
- LS&PCOMP is the constituent list for the current S&P 500
- LS&PCOMP0989 is the oldest historical list (Sept 1989 – 0989) and
- LS&PCOMP0914 most recent month (Sept 2014 – 0914).
Searching with Datastream Navigator you only get the oldest and newest of these monthly constituent lists. You create the others by editing these.
Other historical constituent lists follow the same pattern e.g. LFTSE100MMYY for the FTSE 100 constituents. These historical constituent lists can be tricky to find in the Datastream Navigator – the results above are from a criteria search with “DS Mnemonic starts with LS&PCOMP”.
Once you know the oldest and newest constituent list available you can edit these to get the ones you want. The screenshot below shows a Datastream request table with a static request for the end of year S&P 500 constituents (LS&PCOMP12YY).
For another detailed example see Historical FTSE100 Index Constituents on Datastream (July 2012)
Bloomberg Professional also gives easy access to key indices through functions WEI (World Equity Indices) and EMEQ (Emerging markets equity indices).
Bloomberg has a member function (MEMB) that can be used to give a list of index constituents. Historical constituents (typically from 2001) are available by using the “Edit” option to change the date. Bloomberg also has a changes (CHNG) function that will give the index changes, including changes in weightings, between chosen dates.
WRDS (Wharton Research Data Services) provides access to S&P 500 index constituents. Compustat – North America – Index Constituents on WRDS – use GVKEYX 000003 or TIC I0003. Historical data is available from March 1964. See Constituent list in Compustat (posted September 2010 Databaser blog) for more details.
(This is also mentioned in Linking Compustat and Mergent FISD on WRDS – posted June 2014)
It can be difficult to log into IHS Global Insight (formerly just Global Insight) for some institutions, and then to find the country risk ratings is hard too. Risks and Ratings has now been moved out of IHS Global Insight to IHS Connect, another part of their websites.
For staff and students at The University of Manchester, these steps should offer some assistance.
- Visit the Library’s Database A-Z page for IHS Global Insight: and click on the link to launch it.
- Hover over the ‘Customer Login’ menu, click on IHS Global Insight.
- At the bottom of the next page, click ‘If you wish to use your Internet identity click here’ located below the login box.
- On the left, under ‘MyINSIGHT Services’, click on the ‘Select Service’ drop-down menu, then ‘Country Intelligence’.
- You are now on the ‘IHS Connect’ website. On the main menu bar, hover on ‘Insight’ then click ‘Risks and Ratings’.
You should then see a screen like the following.
The tool is very easy to use, allowing you to sort the columns and change the time period.
Tesco features heavily in the current business news following a recent profit warning. The library’s business databases are very valuable if you want to research this in more detail.
Dow Jones Factiva is a business news database that covers a wide range of newspapers and trade journals. The news articles are indexed to make it easier to locate the information you need.
The screenshot below shows results for the following search criteria:
- Company – Tesco PLC
- Subject – Profit Warnings
- Date – In the last 3 months
Note that you can scroll down the left hand column to get useful summaries of the results.
This search does not give the Tesco profit warning. It gives all the news articles about a profit warning that also mention Tesco PLC within the article. There have been several articles about the profit warning in the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, …
Selecting an specific source, for example Financial Times, is a useful way of restricting your search results to a more manageable number from the original 471 (193 eliminating duplicates). In this example it is then easy to identify that Tesco PLC issued its profit warning on Friday 29 August 2014.
We now expect trading profit for 2014/15 to be in the range of £2.4bn to £2.5bn. Trading profit for the six months ending 23 August 2014 is expected to be in the region of £1.1bn. (Tesco PLC, 2014)
This “Trading Statement” – note that Tesco does not issue a statement that uses the term “profit warning” – is available on official RNS news from the London Stock Exchange (see LSE – News and Events – RNS). It is also available from the PI Navigator database.
PI Navigator is a specialist database covering global company filings (e.g. annual reports, IPO propectuses, news announcements, mergers and acquistions)
The following screenshot shows results for the search criteria:
- Company – Tesco PLC
- Classification – Trading and Operating Updates
- Issue Date – After 30 June 2104 (3 months)
Note that in PI Navigator it is not possible to search for profit warnings – you have to search for all the market sensitive trading updates that have been released by the company. On the plus side it is quick and easy to find the Tesco PLC Trading Statement of 29 August 2014, and the later trading update about profits for the six months to August 2014 being overstated by an estimates £250m.
Tesco PLC (2014) “Tesco PLC – TSCO Trading Statement Released 07:00 29-Aug-2014″, Available at http://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/news/market-news/market-news-detail/12066364.html, (Accessed 30 September 2014).
Through the many posts by Mark Greenwood in this Business Research Plus blog, useful solutions to technical problems have been provided – how to gather data from a specialised financial database, for a dissertation, for example. Another way to improve the technical knowledge of students (and librarians) in such endeavours is to undertake Certification in these financial databases.
I have successfully undertaken certification for a number of financial databases over the last three years, which has helped me in my role in the Business Data Service. This gave me the authority to be able to stand in front of students in a training session, having gone through the process myself and therefore being in a position to answer any questions relating to certification.
This article sets out my experiences and thoughts on database certification, comparing and contrasting some of those available.
The certification process involves becoming familiar with content relating to a database. This is represented in a series of videos on which the examination(s) are based. Upon successful completion of the examination(s), a certificate is emailed to the candidate, which can then be added to their curriculum vitae.
A candidate is required to be a current student at the university offering the database, to be covered by the usage licence and therefore entitled to use the product and undertake certification, for which there is no charge.
I will consider Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters certification schemes.
Although the certification process for Bloomberg Professional is commonly known as ‘Bloomberg Certification’, the official title is ‘Bloomberg Essentials Training Program’, which appears on the certificate (when the examinations have been successfully completed).
Videos are viewed and examinations taken at a Bloomberg terminal.
Having to be at a terminal to view the videos and take examinations limits flexibility. This is because it restricts students to the opening hours of the buildings in which the Bloomberg terminals are located.
Enter the BESS [Bloomberg Essentials Online Training Program] function code on the command line and press the Enter/GO key to get the screen below:
This displays the four core and four market sector videos, which range in length from about 18 to 35 minutes, for total content time of around 3 ½ hours. They assume no prior knowledge and develop a student to a moderate level of competence, covering background, searching, content available and numerous functions. The format is screen shots from Bloomberg, with a text commentary on the right side plus an audio commentary, listened to through headphones (socket at rear of the keyboard) or speakers in the keyboard.
There are a huge number of functions (around 15,000) even after a large reduction following a recent review – this is reflected in the comment from Tom Secunda (Bloomberg co-founder): “A function that’s brilliant and never used is worth zero”. 
Questions are based on the content within the videos. There are no sample examination questions. A candidate would need to obtain a Bloomberg Personal Login and use this to log in to Bloomberg prior to taking the examinations. This means the system knows who is taking an examination and their name would appear on the certificate, when examinations have successfully been completed.
Obtaining a personal login is a quick process, taking a couple of minutes – which I normally guide students through after a training session or at a later date by arrangement. Examinations are started from the BESS screen.
It takes a minimum of two examinations (Core [30 questions, multiple choice] plus one Market Sector, e.g. Equity Essentials [17 questions, multiple choice]) to qualify for a certificate. As noted in the screen shot above, the pass mark is 75% or better and an examination can be re-taken once only. Students could of course choose to take more than one market sector examination, for which they would receive further certificates and demonstrate a wider grasp of the Bloomberg Professional service.
There is no time limit, but an examination needs to be completed in a single session – it isn’t possible to get part way through and return the next day, as terminals are closed down when a library closes.
Again, this option is on the BESS page, under the cryptic description of ‘Acknowledgment of Completion’, or to put it more simply: send me my certificate. This is emailed as an image file attachment which can then be printed and/or saved.
Certification is currently provided in three areas: Datastream, Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking, and Eikon. Having undertaken the first two, I will deal with these, which follow the same format.
Videos are web-based: at Thomson Reuters Product Certification and it is a quick process to enter name and email address (university) each time when using a public PC, or details can be ‘remembered’ for seamless progression if using a private PC.
Having web access adds greatly to flexibility when preparing for examinations as viewing could be off-campus, in a hall of residence or private house, for example, and therefore not limited to library opening hours.
Thomson Reuters takes a different approach to the videos, in terms of timing, with narrower topic areas and hence shorter times for each video. Format: screen shots with dialogue boxes and an audio commentary – plug in headphones to the computer base unit.
Datastream: Around 130 videos are available, totalling about 6 hours of content. These typically last between one and seven minutes – much shorter than those for Bloomberg (18 – 35 minutes). This means that if a student is looking for guidance on a particular area (e.g. exporting a chart as an image file), it is possible to go directly to a video for this area, rather than have to go through a much longer video. As with Bloomberg, they assume no prior knowledge.
Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking: Around 40 videos, between one and six minutes in length, for total content time of about 1 ¾ hours.
Click on the required option on the certification page (e.g. Datastream) and follow the prompts to view the videos.
Questions are based on the content in the videos. Three sample questions are available from the certification page (see above) for each product.
There is a single examination for Datastream and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking. Format is 30 questions, multiple choice, with a pass mark of 80% or more. An examination can be re-taken once only. So a slightly higher mark is needed than with Bloomberg (75%), but with Bloomberg, a minimum of two examinations is required to get a certificate.
Time limit: 60 minutes. This certainly focusses the mind and makes undertaking the examination more stressful, compared to Bloomberg, which has no time limit.
As with the training videos, the examination can be taken from any location with web access. Click on the product option (e.g. Datastream) and a further option then becomes visible on the left hand menu: Step 2: ‘Ready to take the certification ?’. Once selected, this sends an email with a link within to begin the examination.
This is emailed as an image file immediately after successfully completing the examination, which can be printed and/or saved.
A 30-minute session covering the steps involved in certification for the database in question.
Evolution of training
Adapting to the reaction of students in the first training sessions, I added an introductory section in the middle, which covers searching and the type of information/data available within each database. This allows students to get an appreciation of the ‘look and feel’ of the product, rather than just concentrating on the key steps in certification. This definitely improved the training and resulted in a more rounded course and better student attention.
Responding to this is a bit of an art … what other commitments and events can reduce demand or result in students who have booked a place not attending? Reading week is to be avoided – most undergraduate students have gone home. Other factors include jobs fairs which are promoted at short notice and end of year examinations (April/May), when demand for certification training is markedly reduced.
In the training sessions I suggest a couple of potential approaches to preparing for certification examinations. First, spend a few hours each week building familiarity gradually. And, secondly, waiting until directly after the end of year examinations and putting in a concentrated effort to complete certification – seven days, for example.
Certification benefits – students
Employability: an additional qualification which can help to set students apart from other candidates – who may otherwise have very similar qualifications.
Database overview: certification gives an overview of searching techniques for a database, meaning they can make more effective use of the content available from a database. For example, completing Datastream certification would mean an MSc student on a finance-related course would be fully prepared to search for quantitative data in support of their dissertation.
Flexible Working: students can progress at their own pace and choose when to take the examination(s).
Certification benefits – library staff
Builds technical knowledge: to improve capabilities when answering student research enquiries.
I did this by effectively summarising the certification content. This involved compiling comprehensive notes on areas I felt I needed to memorise (from the videos in Bloomberg) and developing a certification manual (for Datastream and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking). This gave me familiarity with the content and when completed, a quick reference source to consult. Once the examination(s) were completed, I developed a training course to guide students in the certification process, thus passing on my expertise.
Flexible working: I could progress at my own pace, taking into account other work commitments. Hence, the preparation for certification could extend over many months. This is reflected in my certification completion dates: Bloomberg (November 2011), Datastream (February 2013) and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking (January 2014).
Database promotion: a means to promote the use of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters databases to students, emphasising the benefits to be had.
The provision of the certification schemes by Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters is a great benefit and represents a worthwhile investment of time for both students and library staff.
By providing certification training to guide students and promote success in the certification process, the library is helping achieve a university goal – to improve the employability of students.
In setting the level of difficulty, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters have struck the right balance – sufficiently rigorous to be seen as having value by employers, but not so difficult that only a few can pass the examinations.
The certification training sessions provided within the library have been successful, with continuing demand over a number of years.
 Edgecliffe-Johnson, A. Bloomberg service in $100m revamp. Financial Times. 27 February 2012, p.1. [Back]
Your interest in finance and financial markets could start with your university course, your career aspirations, intellectual curiosity, or a combination of all three. Whatever the reason, take one of the specialist financial databases for a quick test drive and get a glimpse of the world from the perspective of a finance professional.
Bloomberg Professional is a great database for getting the professional experience – you just have to think of a large, quoted company, find it and start to browse around. Bloomberg is only available on specific PCs so you have to go to the library.
Once you have Bloomberg running, type the company name in the command line, select the auto-matched series, and choose DES (description) for your command. The screenshot below shows the result for Samsung.
If you are unsure where to go on your test drive there are various Bloomberg posts that could give you inspiration.
Thomson ONE.com from Thomson Reuters is not quite as eye-catching as Bloomberg but it does have a web interface, so you can use it from any PC where you have Internet Explorer as your browser and can run the VPN software to access university resources.
Use the search box to find a large, quoted company by name and you get a standard overview report. Explore the different sections of the report and then the different tabs. The following screenshot is for Amazon.
There are various Thomson ONE.com posts to give you tips. In addition, you can also use one of our library guides to help get started.
Capital IQ, like Thomson ONE.com, has a web interface – you need VPN and a special username and password. Getting started is the same – search for a large company by name and start with the default overview report. With Capital IQ the large list of options to explore appears as a list of headings on the left.
This screenshot is for Wal-Mart Stores (who own the Asda in the UK).
When exploring any of these databases it is best to start with a large company as more information will be available, in general large, quoted US companies as the most studied by professionals are the best.