Short sellers have increased their bearish bets on four of six of the biggest oil companies as oil prices came under intense downside pressure after the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Short interest in ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Petrobras, and Occidental Petroleum increased in the period January 1 to 15, while the number of bearish bets on Chevron and BP dropped, 24/7 Wall St reports.
In the first half of January 2020, Occidental Petroleum saw the biggest jump in short interest among the six oil stocks that 24/7 Wall St tracks. Short interest in Oxy’s shares surged by 31 percent to 27.92 million shares in the two-week reporting period that ended on January 15.
Oxy’s share price rose by nearly 15 percent by January 15, but then started to slide in lockstep with oil prices, which were heavily weighed down by the coronavirus outbreak in China, which has investors and traders concerned that oil demand will be affected.
Among the stocks 24/7 Wall St watches, Brazil’s state-held oil firm Petrobras saw the second-biggest jump in short interest—shorts increased by 30 percent between January 1 and 15, while Petrobras’s stock lost 6.7 percent in that period.
ConocoPhillips saw short interest rise by 7 percent in the two weeks through January 15, with 12.18 million shares shorted, or around 1 percent of the company’s total float.
Short interest in ExxonMobil also increased, by 2 percent to 39.58 million shares, or 0.9 percent of the U.S. supermajor’s free float.
Short interest in BP, however, plunged by 22 percent, according to 24/7 Wall St, while BP’s shares gained 2.6 percent in the first half of January. Short interest in Chevron also dropped, by 2 percent, but its stock fell by 3.6 percent in the two weeks through January.
After January 15, the share prices of many oil stocks have been sliding, as fears of weakened global oil demand amid the coronavirus outbreak have been depressing oil prices for several days in a row.