The oil bears have the hammer

There was a time in the oil sector when futures traders and others involved in oil plays could initiate successful oil buys practically at will, and almost like clockwork.

How much is oil rising today? Two dollars per barrel? Three? Oh, look, there's word of more civil unrest in Nigeria -- and bingo, oil shoots up $5.

Well, those days are 'long' gone (pun intended!) and today the oil bears have the hammer. Oil bulls put on trades sparingly, and with trepidation: any word of slowing retail sales or rising U.S. jobless claims can send oil plunging, frequently wiping out minor, intra-day oil rallies, and with it the oil bulls' profits.