Money managers may not agree where oil prices are headed, but they are increasingly eager to place their bets.
Total wagers on the price of crude climbed to the highest since the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission began tracking the data in 2006. Speculators’ combined short and long positions in West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, rose to 497,280 futures and options contracts in the week ended Feb. 2.
WTI moved more than 1 percent each day in the past three weeks. U.S. crude stockpiles climbed to the highest level in more than 85 years and Venezuela called for cooperation between OPEC and other oil-exporting countries to stem the protracted drop in prices. The slump has slashed earnings from Royal Dutch Shell Plc to Chevron Corp., while Exxon Mobil Corp. reduced its drilling budget to a 10-year low.