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Hedge Funds Reduced Their Bullish Bets on Crude Oil

21 March 2017

Oil prices fell today, with already-bloated markets pressured by rising USA drilling activity and steady supplies from OPEC countries despite touted production cuts.

"Speculative investors have thrown in the towel it seems".

Data last week from oilfield services company Baker Hughes showed an increase in the number of rigs deployed in the United States for the ninth week in a row.

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Last week, WTI oil gained roughly 0.6% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-rise-ahead-of-rig-count-with-weekly-gain-in-sight-2017-03-17), while Brent crude ended the week 0.8% higher.

At 10.30am GMT on Monday (20 March), prices for West Texas Intermediate crude fell 1.56% to $48.03 a barrel, while the cost of a barrel of Brent crude slipped 1.21% to $51.14.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), together with other producers including Russian Federation, has pledged to cut its output by nearly 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) between January and June in an effort to prop up prices and rein in a global supply glut that has dogged markets for nearly three years. It also expects the cartel to maintain its agreed six-month production quota at around 32.5m barrels per day (bpd) for the rest of the year.

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"We have already seen how worries of a border-adjustment tax moved the crude forward curve in the first few weeks following [President Donald] Trump's inauguration", said Troy Vincent, oil analyst at ClipperData. "But the magnitude of the improvement was really not known", said one Gulf delegate, as quoted by the Financial Times.

Opec will meet 25 May in Vienna, Austria, to decide whether to extend its 1.2m bpd production cut. The Libyan government regained control of two key oil ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, which can export up to 600,000 barrels per day.

"Sentiment remains bearish towards oil and the fading optimism over the effectiveness of [the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries'] supply cut deal could encourage sellers to attack prices further", he said.

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Hedge Funds Reduced Their Bullish Bets on Crude Oil