London. Oil sceptics are gaining ground fast as the outlook for global demand worsens.

Hedge funds boosted their bets that West Texas Intermediate crude will fall by 46 per cent, the most since August, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data for the week ended June 11. The balance between bullish and bearish wagers was the most pessimistic since February.

“Outside the United States it’s unmistakable world growth is slowing down,” said Bill O’Grady, chief market strategist at Confluence Investment Management LLC in St. Louis. “The more trade tensions arise, the greater the likelihood that growth is slow, and if Chinese growth slows, it’s not good for oil.’

Crude has entered into bear market territory this month, dropping more than 20 per cent from an April peak as tensions escalate between the US and China, the world’s two largest energy consumers.

Meanwhile, US crude storage tanks are at their fullest in almost two years, and the International Energy Agency said global supplies will swamp demand next year, further pressuring Opec.

Tension in the Middle East gave prices some support, but not enough to prevent futures in New York from closing 2.7 per cent lower for the week, settling at $52.51 a barrel on Friday.

“It is a little unusual to see oil prices falling in front of a weekend with these kind of geopolitical risks out there,” O’Grady said.

The net-long WTI position — the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline — fell 29 per cent to 129,416 futures and options contracts, the CFTC said. Long positions fell 12 per cent.