To be sure, there has been no shortage of rational explanations for this recent price action. To wit:
- Severely oversold conditions prevailing in late February
- Expectations that OPEC’s production cuts will begin to eat in to crude inventory in coming months
- (Seemingly) Better-than-expected economic news on various fronts
- Expectations that the PPIP will stabilize banks, thus leading to the stabilization and eventual recovery of the economy
- The putative future weakening of the dollar as the Fed begins to monetize debt
- Worries about future supply should low prices continue to prevail
- Semi-robust gasoline demand, which could portend an eventual drawdown in crude inventories
- Short-covering by speculators with large net short positions
But is it possible that this recent is foreshadowing a near-term exhaustion of the price trend and subsequently lower prices in the month(s) ahead? Perhaps.
Consider the following: Over the past month, USO has gained 33%. If we normalize each day’s return during this period by USO’s trailing 20-day daily volatility, we get a cumulative return of about 7 daily standard deviations (about 1.6 monthly standard deviations). Moreover, crude’s short-term RSI chart has exhibited a distinctive wide-ranging choppy pattern over this time.
So what? Well, there has been one period in recent history where crude’s price action over a month-long period has exhibited strikingly similar normalized return and RSI patterns - namely, the period between June 4, 2008 and July 3, 2008. And it’s what happened after July 3, 2008 that may pique investors’ interest in these patterns.
Interestingly, the price of crude on July 3, 2008 wasn’t the top. That top wasn’t reached until a few days later. Unsurprisingly, when USO did reach its high, its move from 110 to 117 was swift and violent. Such a move in the current environment, obviously, should not be ruled out.