Waiting for a Catalyst for Oil ETFs

The United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO), which tracks West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, if off 7.3% over the past month, indicating that it could take a while before crude and the related exchange traded products mount another credible comeback.

Some energy market observers are clear in their assessments and they see oil trading higher in the coming months. Some professional traders do not see the current oil bear market lasting very long. Still, some concerned oil market participants believe oil is rallying without strong fundamental cause. A case can be made that oil’s rally is defying still troubling supply dynamics and tepid demand.

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Conversely, many traders remain bearish over the short-term, betting on weakening seasonal trends. Money managers increased wagers on declines in oil prices to a record on increasing U.S. inventories and ahead of a seasonal refinery maintenance that will curb crude demand – futures have dipped in each of the past five Septembers, reports Mark Shenk for Bloomberg.

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OPEC has kept up production to pressure high-cost rivals, such as the developing U.S. shale oil producers. The International Energy Agency expects it will take several years before OPEC can effectively price out high-cost producers.

“On September 20, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo was talking publicly about a one-year production freeze among OPEC members and Russia. Two days later it was reported the Saudis would cut output if Iran followed. We’ll see. In August, OPEC believed non-OPEC production would fall by 1 million b/d this year from 2015 and a bit more in 2017. Even the most pessimistic estimates for demand growth see 1.2 million b/d this year and next. But there is no consensus on these numbers,” reports OilPrice.com.

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Oil is also likely to get some help from now dwindling bets that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in the coming months. Raising interest rates would likely boost the dollar, in turn pressuring dollar-denominated commodities such as oil.

“At some point global supply/demand curves will cross enough to cause prices to rise. Some data indicates they already have. With low oil prices causing massive cutbacks in spending on new supplies, everyone agrees oil prices are very unlikely to revisit recent record lows and will rise over time,” adds OilPrice.com.

For more information on the crude oil market, visit our oil category.

United States Oil Fund

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