Money managers' position in NYMEX crude futures took a bearish turn in the latest reporting period, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released Friday.
The CFTC data confirmed what analysts suspected was a drastic shift in speculative positioning recently after crude futures fell sharply March 8 and kept declining until a week later, when prices found some support.
A sharp buildup in speculative net length left the market vulnerable to the downside, analysts said.
Net length rose after OPEC's supply-cut deal was announced November 30, and accelerated this year. It reached a record-high 405,328 contracts the week ending February 21, according to CFTC data.
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The following two reporting periods saw money managers cut back slightly on net length, but longs still outnumbered shorts by a nearly 7:1 ratio.
But for the week that ended March 14, longs-to-shorts stood at a 3:1 ratio, driven by both long liquidation and shorts entering the market.
Speculative length fell 34,579 contracts to 383,767 contracts, while the size of the short position jumped 67,779 contracts to 128,947 contracts, CFTC data showed.
NYMEX crude futures fell $5.42 to $47.72/b in the week ending March 14, a low going back to November 29. Crude futures have since been above $48/b, suggesting the selling pressure from money managers has eased.
The producer/merchant category cut its net short position 48,703 contracts to 271,757 contracts.
That category captures producers who hedge output by opening short positions in NYMEX crude.
With crude futures holding firm in the $50s this year until recently, that hedging activity looked brisk. The producer/merchant short position reached an all-time high 703,430 contracts mid-February.
The latest reporting period saw the producer/merchant short position rise 11,217 contracts to 673,907 contracts.
--Geoffrey Craig, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Valarie Jackson, email@example.com