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Hedge funds were small buyers of petroleum in the most recent week, reversing small sales in the two previous weeks, as the outlook for prices becomes more uncertain after a strong four-month rally.

Hedge funds and other money managers purchased the equivalent of 16 million barrels in the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts in the week ending on March 9.

Last week’s purchases reversed sales of 20 million barrels over the two previous weeks, but follow on from purchases of 548 million barrels in the 15 weeks between Nov. 3 and Feb. 16.

In the most recent week, portfolio managers were small buyers of NYMEX and ICE WTI (+9 million barrels), U.S. gasoline (+6 million). U.S. diesel (+3 million) and European gasoil (+4 million) but sold Brent (-5 million).

Funds now have a combined position of 901 million barrels, which is in the 82nd percentile for all weeks since 2013, and a level that has only been exceeded in four weeks in the last two years.

Bullish long positions outnumber bearish short ones by a ratio of 5.75:1, in the 78th percentile, indicating positioning is already somewhat lopsided and increasing the probability of a short-term reversal.

Positions in crude (83rd percentile) are more stretched than in fuels (73rd percentile), which confirms that persistent OPEC+ output restrictions rather than recovering consumption is the main underpinning for bullish views.

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