Home Hedge Funds Column: Hedge fund oil bulls checked as interest rates rise: Kemp

Column: Hedge fund oil bulls checked as interest rates rise: Kemp

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Oil and gas tanks are seen at an oil warehouse at a port in Zhuhai, China October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

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LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) – Investors’ renewed bullishness toward oil prices was checked last week as central banks lifted interest rates and fears of an imminent recession sapping oil consumption intensified.

Hedge funds and other money managers sold the equivalent of 11 million barrels in the six most important petroleum-related futures and options contracts in the week to June 14 (https://tmsnrt.rs/3QvJhDh).

Sales came after funds had purchased a total of 99 million barrels over the previous four weeks on expectations of tougher EU sanctions on Russia’s oil exports and easing lockdowns in China.

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Portfolio investors are trapped between bullishness stemming from sanctions and the expectation China will relax lockdowns to stimulate its economy, and bearishness from inflation and rising interest rates.

But the major central banks, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve, are raising interest rates at the fastest pace for more than a quarter of a century, which is likely to cause growth in both the economy and oil consumption to slow.

Hedge fund positions have been caught in this quandary for more than three months since early March and there is no sign that it is any nearer to being resolved.

The most recent week was characterised by small buying in Brent (+11 million barrels), U.S. gasoline (+1 million) and European gas oil (+2 million) but that was more than offset by sales in NYMEX and ICE WTI (-25 million).

The hedge fund community is still bullish overall, with long positions outnumbering short ones by a margin of 6.57:1, which is in the 83rd percentile for all weeks since 2013.

But the combined position of 636 million barrels is only in the 54th percentile, reflecting both a lack of conviction and the expense of carrying positions at a time of heightened volatility.

Related columns:

– Surging oil prices show business cycle slowdown is inevitable (Reuters, June 14) read more

– Brent bulls get a boost from EU sanctions on Russia (Reuters, June 13) read more

– Oil bulls emboldened by EU sanctions and China easing lockdowns (Reuters, June 6) read more

– Oil hedge funds caught between sanctions and recession (Reuters, May 16) read more

John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own

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Editing by Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.

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