Is the Smart Money Buying Oil?

If anyone knows fundamental supply/demand forces, seasonal patterns and the potential for curveballs, it’s commercial traders.

Commercial oil traders work with oil in their day-to-day business. It’s the only commodity they deal with. Commercial traders make up about 60 – 75% of the trading volume in futures markets. That’s why they are considered the smart money.

So, is the smart money buying oil?

The chart below plots the price of crude oil against the net futures positions of commercial traders (as reported by the Commitment of Traders report).

Commercial oil traders are almost always net short as futures are used as hedge against falling prices.

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. The smart money reduced short exposure steadily as oil prices tumbled. In itself, that’s good news.
  2. However, net short positions fell to an all-time low and are still well below the levels seen at prior oil price trough. That’s not bullish.
  3. Although oil prices managed to inch higher last week, commercial traders added to their hedges (red circle). That’s bearish.

Technical analysis shows an improving picture for the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLE). Click here for detailed XLE analysis.

But oil ETFs like the United States Oil ETF (NYSEArca: USO) and iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETN (NYSEArca: OIL) have yet to catch their footing.

Commercial oil traders are not yet convinced oil has found a lasting bottom. Unless we know something they don’t, it appears too early to buy.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

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Why Oil Crash is Unlikely to Trigger Stock Market Crash

Falling oil prices in 2008 led to a stock market meltdown. It’s 2014, and oil prices are crashing again. Will stocks follow the 2008 script? We live in a complex world, and there are a number of correlations that may cause a surprise outcome.

This report was originally published in the December 14 Profit Radar Report:

There is some concern that the drop in oil prices will push stocks into a bear market, similar to what happened in 2008. We live in a complex world, and here are some of the ripple effects caused by falling oil prices. A bear market is not necessarily one of them.

Low Oil Prices = Economic Stimulus

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States consumes about 11.5 billion gallons of gasoline and 567 million barrels of crude oil per month (based on 2013 data).

Since late June, the price of regular gas fell from $3.8/gallon to $2.5/gallon. A $1.30 drop in gas prices translates into a monthly savings of almost $15 billion for U.S. drivers.

Since late June, crude oil prices fell from $107/barrel to $58. A $49 drop in crude oil prices translates into a monthly savings of $28 billion.

Without help from the Federal Reserve, the oil market just delivered an ‘economic stimulus’ that could be valued somewhere around $43 billion a month.

Oil vs S&P 500

This year’s oil price collapse differs from the 2008 collapse relative to the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY). In 2008, the S&P 500 topped before oil did. In fact, the S&P 500 recorded its all-time high in October 2007 and was already down 21% by the time oil topped on July 11, 2008.

In 2014, the S&P 500 recorded new all-time highs five months after oil (NYSEArca: USO) started to decline.

The chart below plots oil against the S&P 500 and shows that falling oil (NYSEArca: OIL) prices are not consistently bearish for stocks.

Falling oil prices after unusual spikes or bubbles (1990 Iraq war, 2008 commodity bubble – red shading) have a bigger effect on stocks than falling oil prices after a periods of consolidation (gray shading).

The 2014 meltdown came after a year of sideways trading. If history can be used as a guide, stocks are likely to hold up despite the oil meltdown.

Oil & the Hindenburg Omen

The ominous Hindenburg Omen showed up multiple times in December. The media has published numerous Hindenburg gloom and doom articles in recent years. The most recent Hindenburg clusters occurred in May/June and August 2013 without effect on stocks.

A number of requirements need to be met to trigger the Omen, one of them is a spike of new NYSE highs and lows.

Declining oil prices sent many energy stocks to new lows. Those new lows contribute to the Hindenburg Omen requirements and the resulting signal.

Oil & the Energy Sector

98% of stocks included in the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) are trading below their 50-day SMA. XLE is extremely oversold. The immediate downside from such on oversold condition is limited. A bounce in energy stocks will serve as tailwind for broad markets. UPDATE: XLE just deliverd the most bullish action since June. Will it stick? More details here: XLE Delivers Promising Rally

According to JP Morgan, oil firms account for 18% of the high yield bond market, which explains the 10% drop in junk bond ETFs like JNK (detailed analysis of JNK is available to Profit Radar Report subscribers).

The rest of the report along with detailed analysis for U.S. stocks and oil is available to subscribers of the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) Delivers Promising Rally

The Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLE) lost as much as 28.57% from June to December. Every attempt to go bottom fishing was greeted by further losses.

I was nearly tempted to fish for an oil low in late November, when I wrote that: “Oil failed to make a new low this week, but a marginal new low would likely come with a bullish RSI divergence and the potential for a bottom.”

Two days later (November 28) oil lost 10% in one day and I shared this updated outlook with Profit Radar Report subscribers: “Friday’s 10.4% loss was more than just a ‘marginal new low.’ RSI also confirmed the new price lows. Obviously this decline is stretched, and a rally can develop at any given time, but at this point it’s better to wait for a move back above resistance. The next real support/resistance level doesn’t emerge until around 50, but it appears ambitious to expect oil to drop that far.

Turns out the $50 target wasn’t all that ambitious after all (actual low for crude oil futures was 53.60). It appears like oil will test the 50 level next year. For now, the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLE) chart looks more promising than oil.

The December 10 Profit Radar Report stated that: “XLE is near parallel trend channel support and may bounce, but with lacking evidence of a more permanent low in oil prices, going long XLE is risky. A drop below trend channel support followed by a close above would offer a low-risk buy signal.”

The weekly XLE chart below includes the trend channel (purple lines) along with helpful prior support/resistance levels (dashed gray lines).

XLE dipped below the trend channel last week and closed back above it on Wednesday. This is the first encouraging sign for XLE.

Yesterday’s Profit Radar Report spells out what’s needed next for this fledgling bounce to gain momentum.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.