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LONDON: Portfolio investors had become increasingly bearish about the outlook for oil prices in the run up to the meeting of the extended OPEC+ group of oil exporters on June 3-4.

Hedge funds and other money managers sold the equivalent of 32 million barrels in the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts over the seven days ending on May 30.

Fund managers were sellers in four of the most recent six weeks, reducing their position by 238 million barrels since April 18, according to records published by regulators and exchanges.

The combined position had been reduced to 296 million barrels (7th percentile for all weeks since 2013) down from 534 million (39th percentile) six weeks earlier.

In a sharp turn in sentiment, the ratio of bullish long positions to bearish short ones had been cut to 2.04:1 (12th percentile) down from 5.00:1 (65th percentile).

During the most recent week, funds were net sellers of crude (-27 million barrels), despite the nearness of the OPEC+ policy meeting.

Heavy sales of NYMEX and ICE WTI (-50 million barrels) more than offset significant buying of ICE Brent (+23 million).

The position in WTI was slashed to 88 million barrels (3rd percentile) while the long-short ratio was cut to 1.70:1 (5th percentile).

On the products side, buying of US diesel (+2 million barrels) and US gasoline (+1 million) was more than offset by heavy sales of European gas oil (-8 million).

Position changes were driven more by concerns about a slowdown in the global economy and associated fall in oil consumption than the prospect Saudi Arabia and its allies in OPEC+ might cut production further.

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