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Oil Bear Market Attracts Record Bets on Further Price Slide

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Oil

Hedge funds have gone all-in on lower oil prices, counting on seasonal weakness to play out again this year.

Money managers increased wagers on declining crude prices to a record as futures dropped to the lowest in more than three months. U.S. crude inventories climbed for a second week as imports arrived at the fastest pace since 2012. The supply gain comes on the cusp of seasonal refinery maintenance that will curb crude demand. Futures have declined in each of the past five Septembers.

“We’re are entering a period of seasonal maintenance, which should put some downward pressure on prices,” said Scott Roberts, co-head of high yield investments and manager of $2.7 billion at Invesco Advisers Inc. in Atlanta.

Hedge funds increased their short position in West Texas Intermediate crude to 218,623 futures and options combined during the week ended Aug. 2, the highest in data going back to 2006, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

WTI closed 22 percent below its June peak on Aug. 1, meeting the common definition of a bear market. It dropped 7.9 percent to $39.51 a barrel in the report week. Prices were up 1.9 percent at $42.61 as of 8:36 a.m. on Monday.

U.S. crude supplies rose to 522.5 million barrels as of July 29, the highest seasonal level in decades, Energy Information Administration data show. Imports climbed to 8.74 million barrels a day, the most since October 2012.

Refinery Rates

Refineries operated at 93.3 percent of capacity in the week ended July 29, the highest since November. Refiners typically bolster their operations in June and July to meet peak gasoline demand before ratcheting back in August. Over the past five years, refiners’ thirst for oil has dropped an average of 1.2 million barrels a day from July to October.

“Refinery margins are weak, global demand growth is decelerating and there’s upcoming seasonal weakness for both crude demand and product demand,” Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York, said on Bloomberg Television Aug. 4. “To me it has a taste of the classic autumn downturn.”

Technical factors are also weighing on crude prices. WTI settled below the 50, 100 and 200-day moving averages on Aug. 1 for the first time since February.

The market has further to fall before hitting key support, according to Paul Ciana, a technical analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “We need to form a bottom in the mid-to-upper $30s before we move back towards $52.”

Bearish Bets

Money managers’ short position in WTI rose 38,489 futures and options and have almost doubled in the past three weeks, CFTC data show. Longs, or bets on rising prices, increased 1.6 percent, while net longs dropped 28 percent to the lowest since January.

In the Brent market, money managers trimmed bullish bets by 28,148 contracts in the week, according to data from ICE Futures Europe. Bets that prices will rise outnumbered short positions by 260,388 lots, the least since January, the London-based exchange said.

In other markets, net-bearish bets on gasoline fell 20 percent to 4,081 contracts. Gasoline futures fell 2.5 percent in the report week. Net-long wagers on U.S. ultra low sulfur diesel dropped 44 percent to 7,163 contracts. Futures slipped 5.1 percent.

Reversal Higher

Not everyone is on the bearish bandwagon.

The influx of bearish bets from money managers may leave the market vulnerable to a rebound. The past three peaks in short bets have been followed by price gains ranging from 29 percent to 95 percent.

The oil market is poised for a “violent reversal” upward, oil trader Andy Hall wrote to investors in his Stamford, Connecticut, hedge fund, Astenbeck Capital Management LLC. “Funds have made a significant amount of money getting short oil in the last few weeks and people will want to take some profits off the table as we approach levels which will only accelerate U.S. production declines.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Posts 2% Gain for the Week Despite India Virus Surge

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Crude Oil - Investors King

Oil prices steadied on Friday and were set for a weekly gain against the backdrop of optimism over a global economic recovery, though the COVID-19 crisis in India capped prices.

Brent crude futures settled 0.28% higher at $68.28 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude advanced 0.29% to $64.90 per barrel.

Both Brent and WTI are on track for second consecutive weekly gains as easing restrictions on movement in the United States and Europe, recovering factory operations and coronavirus vaccinations pave the way for a revival in fuel demand.

In China, data showed export growth accelerated unexpectedly in April while a private survey pointed to strong expansion in service sector activity.

However, crude imports by the world’s biggest buyer fell 0.2% in April from a year earlier to 40.36 million tonnes, or 9.82 million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since December.

In the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, jobless claims have dropped, signalling the labour market recovery has entered a new phase as the economy recovers.

The recovery in oil demand, however, has been uneven as surging COVID-19 cases in India reduce fuel consumption in the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer.

“Brent came within a whisker of breaking past $70 a barrel this week but failed at the final hurdle as demand uncertainty dragged on prices,” said Stephen Brennock at oil brokerage PVM.

The resurgence of COVID-19 in countries such as India, Japan and Thailand is hindering gasoline demand recovery, energy consultancy FGE said in a client note, though some of the lost demand has been offset by countries such as China, where recent Labour Day holiday travel surpassed 2019 levels.

“Gasoline demand in the U.S. and parts of Europe is faring relatively well,” FGE said.

“Further out, we could see demand pick up as lockdowns are eased and pent-up demand is released during the summer driving season.”

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Commodities

Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange to Commence Gold Trading

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gold bars

With the admission of Dukia Gold’s diversified financial instruments backed by gold as the underlying asset, Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange is set to commence gold trading.

According to Dukia Gold, the instruments will be in form of exchange-traded notes, commercial papers and other gold-backed securities, adding that it will enable the company to deepen the commodities market in Nigeria, increase capacity, generate foreign exchange for the Nigerian government to better diversify foreign reserves and create jobs across the metal production value chain.

Tunde Fagbemi, the Chairman, Dukia Gold, disclosed this while addressing journalists at Pre-Listing Media Interactive Session in Lagos on Thursday.

He said, “We are proud to be the first gold company whose products would be listed on the Lagos Futures and Commodities Exchange. The listing shall enable us facilitate our infrastructure development, expand capacity and create fungible products.

“This has potential to shore up Nigeria’s foreign reserve and create an alternative window for preservation of pension funds. A gold-backed security is a hedge against inflation and convenient preservation of capital.”

“As a global player, we comply with the practices and procedures of London Bullion Market Association and many other international bodies. Our refinery will also have multiplier effects on the development of rural areas anywhere it is located,” he added.

Mr Olusegun Akanji, the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, Heritage Bank, said the lender had created a buying centre for verification of quality and quantity of gold and reference price to ensure price discovery in line with the global standard.

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Crude Oil

Oil Nears $70 as Easing Western Lockdowns Boost Summer Demand Outlook

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Crude oil

Oil prices rose for a third day on Wednesday as easing of lockdowns in the United States and parts of Europe heralded a boost in fuel demand in summer season and offset concerns about the rise of COVID-19 infections in India and Japan.

Brent crude rose 93 cents, or 1.4%, to $69.81 a barrel at 1008 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 85 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.54 a barrel.

Both contracts hit the highest level since mid-March in intra-day trade.

“A return to $70 oil is edging closer to becoming reality,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“The jump in oil prices came amid expectations of strong demand as western economies reopen. Indeed, anticipation of a pick-up in fuel and energy usage in the United States and Europe over the summer months is running high,” he said.

Crude prices were also supported by a large fall in U.S. inventories.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) industry group reported crude stockpiles fell by 7.7 million barrels in the week ended April 30, according to two market sources. That was more than triple the drawdown expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Gasoline stockpiles fell by 5.3 million barrels.

Traders are awaiting data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday to see if official data shows such a large fall.

“If confirmed by the EIA, that would mark the largest weekly fall in the official data since late January,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.

The rise in oil prices to nearly two-month highs has been supported by COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the United States and Europe.

Euro zone business activity accelerated last month as the bloc’s dominant services industry shrugged off renewed lockdowns and returned to growth.

“The partial lifting of mobility restrictions, the expectation that tourism will return in the near future, and the lure of the psychologically important $70 mark are all likely to have contributed to the price rise,” Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said.

This has offset a drop in fuel demand in India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“However, if we were to eventually see a national lockdown imposed, this would likely hit sentiment,” ING Economics analysts said of the situation in India.

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