• Brianna Lizeth

Oil bears and bulls grapple as market puzzles over pandemic exit

Oil futures have already recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with Brent crude futures spiking $55 in less than a year to $70 a barrel this week while actual fuel demand remains weak.

But speculation over when and if people will begin to travel and commute as they once did is driving dueling bets in the market and historic volumes of trade. "What makes the current situation so pronounced is ... the duration of uncertainty around how the resolution will pan out," said Marc Rowell, senior energy broker at Britannia Global Markets. Total monthly contracts for U.S. WTI crude held by producers and merchants increased to more than 1 million in February for the first time since May, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Meanwhile, market open interest in ICE (NYSE:ICE)'s Brent futures contract reached an all-time high of 2.8 million contracts on Feb. 19, topping its last record in April last year.

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