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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Oil Bears Are Back As The Crude Crash Continues

  • Even before oil prices crashed on Tuesday morning, hedge funds had started to dump oil as an increasing number of experts highlighted the risk of a recession.
  • As well as recession fears, new lockdowns in China have increased the likelihood of significant demand destruction, pushing oil prices lower.
  • While demand destruction has given bears the upper hand in oil markets, the upside risks are plentiful and volatility is likely to remain.
Oil bears

Oil traders are selling oil again as concern about the course of the global economy deepens, taking the upper hand over supply fears.

Brent crude has lost more than $20 per barrel over the past month, with West Texas Intermediate down by nearly $25 per barrel at the time of writing. Recession fears appear to be the biggest driver of the price decline, with demand still robust despite prices.

Meanwhile, hedge funds are selling their oil, Reuters' John Kemp reported in his weekly column on oil market moves. In the week to July 5, they sold the equivalent of 110 million barrels of crude oil and fuels across the six most traded contracts.

This has brought the total volume sold across these contracts to a little over 200 million barrels over the past four weeks, Kemp noted. The acceleration in selling over the week to July 5 becomes even more notable in the context of the four-week total.

Forecasts of a recession, specifically in the United States, are multiplying. The latest this week came from TD Securities, which said that the odds of the U.S. falling into a recession by the start of 2023 are over 50 percent.

The firm's head of global strategy, Richard Kelly, listed three factors that would determine the course of the U.S. economy downward: gasoline prices, the Fed's hawking policy as it seeks to tame inflation, and a generally slowing economic growth.

Bloomberg columnist Jared Dillian, meanwhile, suggested in a recent opinion piece that Americans' views of the economy appeared to be downbeat despite one of the strongest job markets ever. He argued that consumers might be talking themselves into a recession, citing economic theory research showing how expectations of higher inflation led to higher inflation.

These forecasts clearly have a strong impact on hedge funds and other money managers, judging by the rate at which these are dumping their bullish positions on oil, even though the fundamentals have not changed in a favorable way over the past couple of weeks.

On the contrary, supply appears to be getting even tighter. Libya last week declared yet another force majeure on oil exports. The actual spare oil production capacity of Saudi Arabia has become the talk of the town, but not in a good way: many are openly doubting the Kingdom's ability to boost production in a meaningful way, that is, a way that would lead to lower global prices.

Russia continues to redirect its European oil exports to other buyers while the West mulls how to implement a price cap designed to keep Russian oil flowing into international markets while reducing the country's revenues from the commodity.

Yet oil bears just got a fresh boost from China, which this week reported it had identified the first case of a new, highly transmissible variant of Covid, which many expect would lead to mass testing and possible movement restrictions based on the country's zero-Covid policy.

"The oil market is being pulled in two directions with exceedingly tight physical fundamentals set against forward-looking demand concerns and signs of price-induced demand destruction," EBW Analytics researchers said this week, as quoted by Reuters.

As of Tuesday, it looks like demand concerns, particular concerns over Covid lockdowns in China, have taken center stage.

On the bearish front, even if President Biden manages to clinch a deal from Riyadh for higher oil production, doubts about whether the higher production is doable are likely to dampen the effect of such a deal. 


On the bullish front, there is no sign anywhere of new supply coming online and the latest SPR release will soon run out.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Randy noipe on July 13 2022 said:
    If they were so concerned about the economy they would let the oil prices come down and not purchase any contracts so the price goes up Speculators are destroying the world economy and they don't care because they can make massive profits
  • George Doolittle on July 13 2022 said:
    *a low price for a commodity* does not make one bearish on said commodity in the least. Indeed the most fundamental aspect to understanding *"WHAT IS ECONOMIC AND IS THAT SO?"* is in the ability to see that very very very low price and still have contained within that a payment mechanism.

    By way of example John D. Rockefeller wasn't the most wealthy man in Human History because *"OIL!"* but because he could deliver on and in still make a profit in an INCREDIBLY LOW PRICE for oil or simply put something despite enormous competition no other work product could even remotely execute upon.

    Oil was still of incredibly valuable and still is today and yes of course "the price is the price" but when it comes time to start drilling offshore Guyana the question isn't about the price of oil but *"IS THE PROJECT ECONOMIC?"* or based upon some idea of future demand meaning "can this still work despite or even because of a very low price?" That's how commodities work in the USA anyways with more important still "value added" or distillate/chemical manufacture and production and of course then beyond even that or final demand also known as *"retail."*

    Can't have final demand without a cash register.

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