Crude oil, in a downtrend since June, is showing signs of selling fatigue with the technical outlook turning more price friendly while fresh fundamental developments are adding some support as well. Worries about an economic slowdown driving by China’s troubled handling of Covid outbreaks, and its property sector problems as well as rapidly rising interest rates, were the main drivers behind the selling seen across commodities in recent months.
Crude oil with its strong underlying fundamentals, with tight supply driven by Russia sanctions and OPEC struggling to lift production, was the last shoe to drop and since the mid-June peak, speculators and macroeconomic focused funds have been net sellers of both WTI and Brent crude oil futures.
With most of these market participants using the front of the futures curve, the selling has seen the forward curve flatten, a development that is normally viewed as price negative as it signals reduced tightness in the market. However, for that to ring true we should see inventory levels of crude oil and fuel products rise while refinery margins should ease. None of these developments have occurred and it strengthens our belief that the weakness sign has more to do with position adjustments and short positions being implemented by traders focusing on macro instead of micro.
In the week to August 9, the combined net long in Brent and WTI slumped to 304k lots a level last seen in April 2020, and 209k lots below the mid-June peak.