July 30, 2018 / 11:17 AM / a year ago

COLUMN-Oil prices steady as fund managers cease liquidation: Kemp

(John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own)

* Chartbook: tmsnrt.rs/2K3n5Nn

By John Kemp

LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Hedge funds appear to have completed the recent wave of liquidation, with bullish positions increased slightly last week after heavy falls the week before, helping to steady the main crude oil benchmarks.

Hedge funds and other money managers raised their net long position in the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts by 37 million barrels in the week to July 24.

The boost was a marked turnaround from the previous week, when net long positions were cut by 178 million barrels, one of the heaviest bouts of liquidation on record.

In the most recent week, portfolio managers raised net long positions in Brent (+14 million barrels), U.S. gasoline (+11 million), U.S. heating oil (+12 million) and European gasoil (+11 million).

The only selling came in NYMEX and ICE WTI, where net long positions were reduced by 11 million barrels last week, according to data published by regulators and exchanges (tmsnrt.rs/2K3n5Nn).

The recent wave of liquidation, which started in late April, and accelerated in mid-July, has blown off some of the froth from the top of the market.

Portfolio managers remain exceptionally bullish on the outlook, but some of the momentum-chasing and more tactical long positions have been squared up.

Long positions in the petroleum complex outnumber short ones by more than 1 billion barrels, but that is down from a net long position of more than 1.4 billion barrels three months ago.

Long positions still outnumber shorts by a ratio of more than 9:1, leaving the market stretched, but that is down from almost 14:1 at the peak.

For now, bullishness about supply disruptions, the impact of Iran sanctions, and strong growth in oil consumption is outweighing concerns about the global economic outlook and the impact of high prices on oil demand.

Related columns:

- Oil market hits a cyclical pause (Reuters, July 24)

- Hedge funds slash bullish oil positions after prices peak (Reuters, July 23)

- Hedge funds quiet before oil-price plunge (Reuters, July 16)

- Brent stumbles as market resets after long rally (Reuters, July 12)

Editing by David Evans

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