April 27, 2015 / 4:15 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Hedge funds raise bets on rising Brent price to new record

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LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - Hedge funds and other money managers raised their bets on rising Brent crude oil prices for a fifth week in a row to a new record, exchange data showed on Monday.

Speculators increased net long positions in Brent futures and options by 8,351 contracts to 271,929 in the week to April 21, InterContinental Exchange (ICE) data showed, the highest level since records began in 2011.

“We have more or less seen longs rise since October so it’s been going on for some time,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

However, he added the proportion of long bets to short positions had reached levels which in the past had been followed by a drop in prices.

“The long-to-short ratio has reached 6.4 and we’ve only seen an extreme situation like that three times since 2011. All three times we’ve seen quite a correction in the market.”

Brent crude prices fell by more than half between June and January. But in recent weeks prices staged a recovery, surging to a high of $65.80 a barrel on Friday — a level not seen since early December — as fighting in Yemen stoked concern over supply routes from the Arab Gulf.

Meanwhile, money managers also raised their bets in U.S. benchmark WTI crude futures and options to 276,051 contracts, according to exchange data released on Friday.

Front-month WTI futures rallied from a six year low in March to a 2015 high of $58.41 last week as U.S. drilling rigs declined to their lowest levels since 2010.

The rise in prices has caused banks to raise their forecasts for oil prices for the rest of the year. On Thursday, Societe Generale raised its 2015 average Brent crude forecast to $59.54 a barrel and its WTI forecast to $53.62.

On Monday, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch followed suit. “The market seems to have found a spot price low, and we lift our end of 2Q15 targets for WTI and Brent to $59 and $63 a barrel,” they said in a note.

Global oil supplies remain in a glut, however, with U.S. stocks at record levels and crude production in the Organization for the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) outstripping demand by nearly 2 million barrels per day.

“With so much domestic production in the United States and so much OPEC oil you’d think it would have come lower,” said Christopher Bellew, senior trader at Jefferies Bache.

“We may see a new range between $65 and $70 a barrel next.” (Reporting by Himanshu Ojha; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)

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