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The strength in oil prices may not be terribly long-lasting.
That's the broad takeaway from technical analysis provided by Carley Garner, author of "A Trader's First Book on Commodities."
Although Jim Cramer is first and foremost a fundamental investor, he often turns to technical analysis for insights, especially when an analyst has an impressive track record.
And Cramer says few analysts have been more accurate than Garner. "So, when Garner says to be cautious about crude, I take her seriously."
Part of Garner's skepticism involves geopolitical events, which often drive prices higher as investors fear a supply shortage. And at the moment, she believes that the price of oil has been .
Developments attracted buyers of crude oil as they often do. However, this time, they attracted way too many of them.
Looking at the latest Commitment of Traders report, Garner notes that large speculators have amassed holdings in excess of 410,000 net long contracts, while small speculators are net long an additional 19,000 contracts. Garner says this is the largest net long position speculators have ever taken in the oil futures since the CFTC started measuring. (Historically, Garner says that 200,000 has been considered a pretty high figure.)
Therefore, Garner thinks the market is facing a situation in which too many investors, on one side of a trade, ultimately capsize the opportunity.
Although it would seem like pervasive optimism is a good thing, at a certain point, when investors get too bullish, the market runs out of new buyers.
That's a big problem if and when bulls get spooked. And looking at the weekly chart of West Texas crude, Garner thinks it's only a matter of time before oil bulls get spooked.
First, she says, oil is facing a ceiling of resistance at $108, and that's where she thinks oil will peak, unless geopolitical events flare. But even if they do, Garner says the next ceiling of resistance is at $112.50, and at those levels, Garner says RSI indicators will put oil in overbought territory.
Because the market tends to be somewhat technically driven, somewhere between $108 and $112.50, Garner expects selling to prevail.
And when oil turns lower, Garner can see it declining precipitously because 1) the volume of bulls that sell out of positions will be much larger than usual and 2) there aren't enough bulls left in the market to buy the decline.
If that happens, Garner expects a vacuum-type selloff. In fact, in these types of circumstances where there are too many oil bulls, she says it's not uncommon to see the price of oil drop by $20 or even $25.
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Cramer isn't quite so negative. He thinks the global economy is starting to improve and as a result be believes there's an underlying demand for oil. Nonetheless, he thinks Garner's analysis warrants attention. "She's been very accurate and oil has been a very one-way trade for way too long."
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