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Crude oil futures registered declines despite rising bets in favour of a price rise Reuters

Oil futures headed lower on Monday (17 October) despite recent data pointing to a decline in short calls, or bets that crude prices will head lower, as traders continue to place faith in coordinated cuts by Opec and Russia before the end of the year.

At 5:32pm BST, the West Texas Intermediate front month futures contract stayed below $50 per barrel, down 1.29% or ¢65 to $49.70, while Brent was 1.17% or ¢61 lower at $51.34 per barrel, as both benchmarks stayed in intraday negative territory in Asia and Europe.

The moves came despite Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data for the trading week ending 11 October pointing to a 53% decline in bets on lower WTI prices over the last three weeks alone.

Giving details the CFTC said short positions of money managers, including hedge funds, in the US futures benchmark fell by 28% to 71,407 futures and options, while long positions, i.e. bets that the price would go up, rose 1.8% to the highest since June 2014.

With tacit support from Russia, Opec agreed to limit its production to a range of 32.5m to 33m barrels per day (bpd) on 28 September, but will only spell out the nature of the cuts on 30 November. However, Opec's internal data suggests it expects additional production from the troubled hotspots of Nigeria and Libya, along with that of Iraq.

Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB, said the crude market is held up by a very clear and real prospect of Opec taking action to trim production at its upcoming meeting in November.

"As Saudi Arabia, the key player in Opec, has started to talk about price rather than volume this clearly needs to be taken seriously. In our view, this makes it hard to sell down Brent crude oil below $50 per barrel. At the same time the physical oil market is supplied plentifully, with dated Brent crude oil spot price at more than $1.5 per barrel discount to the one month contract. However, the overall trend is towards a tightening of the balance."

FXTM research analyst Lukman Otunuga said there might be optimism over a freeze deal in November, but Opec and Russia continue to pump at record output which questions the effectiveness of the pending deal.

"Although major oil producers may be commended on their ability to exploit oils sensitivity to create sharp boosts in prices, this could come at a heavy price if investors are left empty-handed. From a technical standpoint, WTI bears could make an appearance if sellers can conquer the $49.50 support."

Away from the oil market, precious metals remained in positive territory but failed to build any convincing momentum to the upside. At 5:49pm BST, Comex gold futures contract for December delivery was up a mere 0.06% or $1.10 to $1,256.60 an ounce, up intraday but well below $1,300-plus levels seen last month.

"Hawkish US Federal Reserve minutes published over the previous trading week may have cushioned the markets for a pending rate hike and such could translate to downside risks for Gold. From a technical standpoint, a decisive break down below $1,255 an ounce could trigger a selloff towards $1,240 an ounce," Otunuga added.

Elsewhere, Comex silver for December delivery was up 0.17% or ¢3 to $17.47 an ounce, while spot platinum was down 0.10% or ¢90 at $934.84 an ounce.