Hedge funds cut bullish bets on U.S. crude as demand outlook worsens

FILE PHOTO: A pump jack operates in front of a drilling rig at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hedge funds and money managers cut bullish wagers on U.S. crude, data showed on Friday, as rising coronavirus cases around the world weakened the demand outlook, and a rise in OPEC output last month also weighed on the market.

The speculator group cut its combined futures and options position in New York and London by 4,619 contracts to 297,896 in the week to Oct. 6, the lowest in nearly a month, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said.

U.S. crude prices CLc1 rose about 3.5% during the period while Brent climbed LCOc1 nearly 4%, though most of the gains came from the final day of the week.

In the United States alone the pandemic has infected more than 7.2 million and killed more than 206,000.

World oil demand will plateau in the late 2030s and could by then have begun to decline, OPEC said this week, in a major shift for the producer group that reflects the lasting impact of the coronavirus crisis on the economy and consumer habits.

During the week, prices were also volatile as U.S. President Donald Trump battled COVID-19. Last Friday, prices slumped more than 4% following the news that Trump had tested positive and they jumped more than 5% on Monday after Trump said he would leave the hospital.

Increasing oil supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) also weighed on the market, with output in September up 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) from August, a Reuters survey found.

Brent crude speculators also cut net long positions, data from the intercontinental Exchange showed, reducing them by 14,645 to 82,577 contracts in latest week, also near the lowest level in a month.

Meanwhile, natural gas speculators in four major NYMEX, ICE markets raised net long positions by 12,398 contracts to 324,815 in the week to Oct. 6.

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