January 12, 2015 / 3:41 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Hedge funds position for oil rebound, Brent bets most since July

LONDON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Hedge funds have raised the number of their bets on a rise in the price of Brent crude to the highest since July, data showed on Monday, as speculators position for a possible rebound in oil prices following a near 60 percent collapse.

Funds and other large speculators have been adding to positions betting on higher prices since October, even as prices have continued their seven month rout, hitting a new a new 5-1/2 year low on Monday below $48 a barrel.

Data from the IntercontinentalExchange showed on Monday funds have accumulated positions on paper equivalent to more than 140 million barrels of crude - a level last seen when prices were near $105 a barrel in July.

Analysts said fund managers may have lost money on the trades, having bought back in before oil prices are ready to turn. Others suggested funds may be positioning in contracts for later delivery in expectation of an eventual rebound.

Brent for delivery in December 2015 is trading as much as $10 a barrel above current prices.

In the latest week speculators increased their net long position - the difference between bets on higher and lower prices - by 24,598 futures and options contracts to 140,169.

While that is below the 240 million paper barrels they had amassed in June last year as prices hit a high for 2014 above $115 a barrel, it is still a near four-fold increase on where fund positioning bottomed back in September.

Speculators also raised their net long position in ICE gasoil by 948 contracts to 12,561 in the week to Jan. 6, data from ICE showed. (Reporting by David Sheppard and Himanshu Ojha, editing by William Hardy)

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