Ever since the February crash, when oil tumbled to 13 years lows, and when OPEC started releasing tactical headlines at key inflection points about an imminent oil production freeze (which not only never arrived but has since seen Saudi Arabia's output grow to record levels) which we first suggested were meant to trigger a short squeeze among headline scanning HFT algos, our suggestion was - as is often the case - dismissed as yet another conspiracy theory.
Six months later, this conspiracy theory is now a widely accepted fact, and as Bloomberg reports tonight, "well-timed" OPEC talk of a potential deal to freeze output, has "forced bears" into a historic squeeze and helped push oil close to $50 a barrel, prompting West Texas Intermediate from a bear to a bull market in less than three weeks.
"This is all courtesy of some very well-timed comments from the Saudi oil minister," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York hedge fund focused on energy. "They’ve been successful over the last year in jawboning the market, and this is the latest example."
And while one can debate whether OPEC's "headline" leaks are timed to coincide with near-record short positions on WTI, one thing is certain: the past week saw the biggest crude oil short squeeze on record as money managers cut bets on falling prices by the most ever.
According to Bloomberg, Hedge funds trimmed their short position in WTI by 56,907 futures and options during the week ended Aug. 16, the most in data going back to 2006. And, as one would expect following yet another record short squeeze similar to the one experienced earlier in the year, WTI futures rose 8.9% to $46.58 a barrel in the report week and closed at $48.52 a barrel on Aug. 19. WTI is up more than 20 percent from its Aug. 2 low, meeting the common definition of a bull market.
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