Oil short-sellers retreat amid demand concerns



Hedge funds unwound bets against American crude for the first time in six weeks, just before the market took heart from signs of strength in the US and Chinese economies as the week ended.

The move is timid, though, in the face of a recent build-up of bearish positions. Short wagers on West Texas Intermediate crude fell 11 per cent in the week ended October 29, but remain almost triple what they were in mid-September, data released show.

With American refineries entering their maintenance season and the outlook for global growth uncertain, there isn’t much reason to be bullish from a demand point of view. As for supply, shale drillers continue to pump crude at a record pace.

A positive jobs report in the US and a rise in Chinese manufacturing orders helped futures jump 3.7 per cent on Friday, but they were down almost 1 per cent for the week. Prices have been stuck between $52 and $57 a barrel since September.

“There’s not a lot of news to break prices out of that range,” said Rob Haworth, who helps oversee $151 billion at US Bank Wealth Management in Seattle. “Demand expectations are coming down really quickly.”

Money managers’ WTI net-long position, or the difference between bullish and bearish bets, rose 12 per cent to 104,675 futures and options, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. That’s still down from more than 200,000 six week earlier. Long-only bets fell 1.4 per cent.

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