The steep plunge in crude futures in the last few weeks was triggered by a nascent glut as supply-growth started to outpace demand, but it was also part of a broader pullback from risky emerging market assets such as Asian currencies and stocks.
Those assets had done well in recent years, boosted by economic growth in nations such as China, India and Indonesia.
But bulging debt across many Asian economies, tightening U.S. fiscal policy and the Sino-U.S. trade war have driven investors to vote with their feet, pulling their money out of assets such as oil or Asian stocks and instead turning to safe-havens like the U.S. dollar.
As part of that shift, oil markets have lost a third of their value since early October LCoc1CLc1.
“Anything denominated against the USD is under pressure right now,” said Gregg McKenna, an independent cross-asset market analyst based in Australia.
Billions of dollars have been pulled out of crude futures.
It added that net long positions for crude futures, which would profit from increasing oil prices, “were reported to be cut to their lowest level in three years”.
And traders seem to be preparing for further falls.
Managed short positions in front-month U.S. crude oil futures CLc1, which would profit from further price declines, have surged from record lows of around 14,100 lots of 1,000 barrels each in July, to almost 110,000 lots by mid-November, exchange trade data showed. That is the highest number of short positions since October 2017.
What’s more, the number of puts – which give a trader the option though not obligation to sell a financial instrument at a certain price – in February Brent crude oil futures at $55 LCO5500N9 and $50 per barrel LCO5000N9 has surged to record levels since October.
Equally, the price to buy such an option has jumped as demand for them has increased.