Head of Commodity Strategy, Saxo Bank Group
Summary: Raised hopes of a US-China trade deal driving stocks higher, a softer dollar and output cuts have supported oil following its December collapse, but worries about the global economy still nag.
After finding support at $50/b last month Brent crude has swiftly returned to the November-to-December consolidation area between $57.50/b and $64/b:
Another reason why the bulls may need to be patient can be seen in the developments of the forward curve and the open interest in the two major oil contracts of WTI and Brent. A rally driven by fundamentals, such as the outlook for a tightening, would normally trigger a flattening of the forward curve, as the contango – the prompt months discount to deferred – begins to narrow.
As per the chart below we find that the six months spread between February (CLG9) and August (CLQ9) has hardly moved since December. Hedge funds would normally during a rally cut short positions while adding fresh longs. However, since the December 24 low the open interest in WTI has only risen by 61k lots while in Brent it has only risen by 36k lots. This could indicate that the rally has been short covering more than fresh longs entering the market.
Please note that due to the US government shutdown the CFTC has not issued any Commitments of Traders reports since the week of December 18. The COT report provides an important weekly insight into the size and direction of positions held by hedge funds across key futures markets from currencies to bonds and not least commodities.
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