It's a quiet day on the surface for markets, but a real shift is taking place in some major groups.
For months the big trade has been to be long airlines and short pretty much anything related to oil. Check out the comparison of the Oil Services Index (^OSX) compared and the airline index (^XAL) for six months. Since October the XAL is 19% higher while the OSX has dropped almost 30%. In fact at its peak spread a couple weeks back the XAL had gained 26% and the oil services fell 35%.
That trade reversed on January 29th when WTI found a low at about 43.75. You can barely see the reversal on a six month chart but look at the change since the 29th, just eight trading days ago.
Since then the oil services companies have seen shares rip by 13.% while the airlines are down more than 8%. That move lower in airlines is getting goosed today by American Airlines (AAL) which raised its estimates for fuel costs for the current quarter.
With WTI crude oil up another 3% today the pressure is building on traders who've gotten this trade right over the last year. Letting a gain turn into a loss is anathema to traders. A lot of folks on Wall Street are being faced with a tough choice today: double down on airlines or take profits and fly.