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Price Swings Take Speculators for Wild Ride

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Speculators in crude oil and product futures contracts are trying to ride the waves of rapidly changing market sentiment — with mixed results. For the past two months, banks and funds were bullish on refined products and bearish on crude oil. After some wild price spikes, sentiment is now pointing south for all. Bullish speculators claim this market is broken, since prices are deflating while the market is still very tight. Bears think the market had this correction coming, since high energy prices will hurt demand and the global economy. Opposing views are fueling price jolts, which are shaking out participants and leading to even bigger price swings. Since early July, banks and investment funds have increased bets that product prices would rise. They saw a bottom of $3.50 per gallon for diesel in the US, which rose to $4 but lost 50¢ the past week. Speculators saw the bottom for US gasoline at around $3.25, but instead of rising again, the price never took off and is now $2.40, causing a hasty retreat. Over the past two months, speculators have been losing faith that crude prices could rally and lowered their bets on rising prices to nine-year lows — only to reverse course after Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman suggested last week that Opec-plus could cut output to stabilize the market. His comments resulted in a $12/bbl price swing from speculators covering their bets on lower prices by buying futures contracts.

Topics:
Oil Futures and Derivatives, Oil Prices, Oil Supply, Oil Demand, Crude Oil, Oil Products
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