Hedge funds play it safe ahead of Dec 6 OPEC meet


NEW YORK • Investors played it safe on US crude ahead of a make-or break week for oil markets.

Money managers cut total positions on West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude to the lowest level in five years, according to US data released last Friday.

They shed bearish bets faster than bullish ones, leaving the net-long position higher for the first time in 12 weeks.

Oil spiralled to its worst monthly loss in a decade in November, beset by worries about a looming global supply glut. But Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to extend their cooperation on oil markets into 2019, with OPEC+ set to hold talks this week on a potential production cut. Investors don’t want to risk getting caught on the wrong side of a rebound, said Chris Kettenmann, chief energy strategist at Macro Risk Advisors LLC.

“A lot of people who caught some of the downdraft in prices in October and November have moved to the sidelines and were looking to take some profits off the table,” Kettenmann said in a phone interview.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the extension to the OPEC+ deal after a meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Salman. That’s a prelude to a Dec 6 OPEC meeting in Vienna where the cartel and its allies will consider a cut of one million barrels a day or more.

An OPEC advisory committee recommended a 1.3 million-barrel cut, according to a delegate.

“There is no final decision on volumes, but together with Saudi Arabia we will do it,” Putin told reporters about extending the agreement in Buenos Aires. And whatever number there will be based on this joint decision, we agreed that we will monitor the market situation and react to it quickly.”

Because the bets on falling prices shrank faster, net-long positions on WTI — the difference between bullish and bearish wagers — edged up 2.6% to 155,023 options and futures contracts as of Nov 27, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission reported.

WTI, which settled at US$50.93 (RM213.91) a barrel Nov 30, jumped 5.4% as of 10:30pm on Sunday New York time. Bulls may get a further boost after Alberta’s provincial government announced on Sunday a production cut of 325,000 barrels a day, in an effort to ease a regional glut.