Relative Sentiment On Oil


The concept of Relative Sentiment means that when we look at current sentiment data, we need to also consider the sentiment data of the recent past before we can determine how good or bad current sentiment data is. For example, if the past sentiment has been extremely bad for successive days and the sentiment today is not as bad, we will view this as a good sign and count the current sentiment as good even though the absolute value of the sentiment is not high.

Indicators of Relative Sentiment

As there are no indicators of Relative Sentiment available, we will look to build our own composite indicator of Relative Sentiment using raw sentiment data before using it to show sentiment alpha on Crude Oil Futures.

Indicators are used most frequently in Technical Analysis which is the process of using charts and indicators based on price and volume to predict the future movements of financial assets. 

similarities with Technical Analysis as Technical Indicators are sometimes used to view the opinions of investors. For example, a large volume with increasing price could signify that investors are largely positive and bullish about an asset. In this sense, Technical Analysis is a proxy for Sentiment Analysis.

This motivates the borrowing of ideas from Technical Analysis for the construction of composite Sentiment indicators.

The simplest way for us to construct an indicator for Relative Sentiment is by comparing moving averages. We use 2 moving averages of different lengths to compare the current sentiment with the past sentiment.

When the shorter moving average is above the longer moving average, the current sentiment is improving from the past. By the concept of Relative Sentiment, this means that the sentiment for the asset is good. Conversely, when the longer moving average is above the shorter moving average, the current sentiment is poorer than the past and by the concept of Relative Sentiment, this means that the sentiment for the asset is bad. 

Intuitively, we long the asset when the Relative Sentiment is good and short the asset when the Relative Sentiment is bad.

Testing Methodology

Composite Oil Sentiment data from the FinSentS API will be used for all backtests. The Composite Oil sentiment data tracks the sentiment of both Brent Crude Oil and West Texas Intermediate.

All strategies will be backtested from 1/1/2016 to 1/6/2017 on the Quantopian Platform using the Crude Oil Future(CLZ17) expiring on December 2017. The reason for this choice is to ensure that none of the opened positions expire midway through the backtest, needing to be reopened and adding unnecessary transaction costs. At the same time, choosing a contract that expires too far into the future could lead to liquidity issues and possibly add additional costs due to slippage.

All strategies will be benchmarked against a Long-Only Position on the same Future Contract(CLZ17).

On the other hand, Sentiment Analysis is the extraction of the positivity or negativity of news and bears many 

The Strategy (Part 1)

For the first attempt, we will use the following Strategy:

  • If (5 Day Sentiment Moving Average – 10 Day Sentiment Moving Average) > 0.5:
    • Long Future
  • If (5 Day Sentiment Moving Average – 10 Day Sentiment Moving Average) < -0.5:
    • Short Future

Backtest Results (Part 1)

Relative Sentiment on Oil 1

The Strategy (Part 2)

Now we look to shorten our timeframe to view the impact on performance so we will use the following Strategy:

  • If (1 Day Sentiment Moving Average – 5 Day Sentiment Moving Average) > 1:
    • Long Future
  • If (1 Day Sentiment Moving Average – 5 Day Sentiment Moving Average) < -1:
    • Short Future

The entry levels are adjusted to 1 and -1 instead of 0.5 and -0.5 as this Strategy trades in a more impulsive manner. Even small spikes in Relative Sentiment could lead to trades occurring. As a result, the entry levels are widened to capture only larger changes in Relative Sentiment. The longer timeframe used in Part 1 also smoothens out small spikes in Relative Sentiment allowing for a narrower entry level.

Backtest Results (Part 2)

Relative Sentiment on Oil 2

The performance is better as the strategy is more impulsive and able to enter good trades earlier and more often. At the same time, this leads to a higher chance of trading false signals, leading to larger drawdowns.

The Strategy (Part 3)

Now we look to tweak the strategy to improve its performance:

  • If (1 Day Sentiment – 5 Day Sentiment Exponential Moving Average) > 1:
    • Long Future
  • If (1 Day Sentiment – 5 Day Sentiment Exponential Moving Average) < -1:
    • Short Future

Here, we use another kind of moving average, the Exponential Moving Average(EMA). Calculation of the EMA places higher weightage to more recent observations. As a result, it could possibly be a better measure of past sentiment as greater weightage is placed on more recent results.

Backtest Results (Part 3)

Relative Sentiment on Oil 3

We managed to reduce some of the drawdown seen in Part 2. This could be due to the improvement in using an Exponential Moving Average instead of a Simple Moving Average, improving the hit rate of the strategy.


It is quite clear that all variants of the Relative Sentiment strategy shown easily outperformed a Long-Only position on the underlying instrument. They also have low beta values compared to the benchmark, implying that performance of the strategies is not really tied to performance of the underlying instrument.

Found in the appendix are the prices from of the Generic Crude Oil Futures which reflect the performance of spot prices of WTI Crude Oil. The price was 37.04 on 1/1/2016 and 47.66 on 2/6/2017. This implies a performance of 28.67% over our backtest period, much higher than the benchmark observed above.  This further implies that trading of Future contracts costed a Long-Only Position an estimated 20% of its returns over 1.5 years.

It is quite possible that trading other forms of derivatives on WTI such as CFD contracts or the underlying product itself will further improve results if the costs of trading these products are lower compared to the cost of trading futures.

More about the Data

The data used in this report is powered by FinSentS published by InfoTrie Financial Solutions.

The FinSentS News Sentiment database offers daily media sentiment indicators for 23,000+ global equities, calculated by applying sophisticated real-time machine-learning algorithms to the content of thousands of news websites and media sources from around the world.

Each stock has 5 indicators:

  • Sentiment Score: a numeric measure of the bullishness / bearishness of news coverage of the stock.
  • Sentiment High / Low: highest and lowest intra-day sentiment scores.
  • News Volume: the absolute number of news articles covering the stock.
  • News Buzz: a numeric measure of the change in coverage volume for the stock.


Relative Sentiment on Oil Appendix 1

News analytics | Alternative data

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