History points to a good month ahead for oil

Oil is enjoying an incredible March, which could suggest that a good April is ahead.

Crude oil is rising powerfully on Wednesday morning. And even through Tuesday's settlement, oil is up more than 13 percent over the current month.

That sets March up to be one of the best-ever months for oil. Over the past two decades, crude has only risen 13 percent or more in 15 distinct months.

The good news for oil bulls? The month following a substantial gain has tended to be a positive one for the commodity. When oil has risen 13 percent in a given month, it tends to rise another 1.5 percent in the month that follows — with the median move in the following month being a 3.7 percent rise.

For the sake of comparison, the average one-month move for WTI over the past 20 years has been a 0.7 percent gain. (All of this is according to data sliced and diced from FactSet.)

The move in oil is a "short-covering rally," and "when you have these type of short-covering rallies, they can oftentimes extend more than you would anticipate, as more traders get panicked about their short trades," Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management commented in a Monday "Trading Nation" segment.

Interestingly, oil also appears to frequently build up momentum to the downside. After a down-13 percent month, crude has fallen an average of 3.2 percent in the month that has followed.

Of course, it is no secret that commodity markets experience powerful trends. The best-known big-money commodity trading strategy is hopping aboard moves higher or lower, and profiting off of the expected momentum.

Evidence suggests that as oil has bounced back, many of these trend-following hedge funds (known as commodity trading advisors) have been forced to cover their short positions and perhaps even get long crude.

In fact, Reuters reported Tuesday that hedge funds have speedily increased their bullish bets on crude oil over the past three months, all the way up to a near-record net long position of 579 million barrels.

As more and more funds potentially pile in as the second quarter begins, oil's gains may be set to continue.


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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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