By Devika Krishna Kumar
(Reuters) - Oil traders keep a low profile.
So when one of the most widely followed oil traders on Twitter abruptly closed his account last week, the outpouring of dismay among his thousands of followers was rare for the secretive multi-trillion-dollar industry.
Eric Rosenfeldt, who goes by the Twitter handle of Oil Merchant or @energyrosen, had attracted more than 8,000 Twitter followers for his quirky and candid opinions on the crude oil market.
Rosenfeldt does not identify himself or his company on his Twitter profile, but he previously confirmed his identity to Reuters.
The trader, who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Thursday deleted his account after a user questioned some of his tweets about crude prices and called him dishonest.
Saying his remarks had likely been misinterpreted, Rosenfeldt decided it was the last straw for him with Twitter, where he found the climate sometimes hostile.
"It was a death by a thousand cuts. Then someone said I was dishonest or something like that and I was like, 'Why am I doing this crap?'," Rosenfeldt, who has been in the oil business for 16 years and on Twitter since 2009, said in an instant message on Friday.
It's not unusual for arguments to break out in the Twittersphere, and Rosenfeldt had told Reuters previously he had considered leaving the social media site because of negative responses from other members.
For many traders, including Rosenfeldt, Twitter is in some ways similar to the free-for-all spirit of the open-outcry trading pits, which have been replaced by electronic trading.
Still the feud last week demonstrated how the public glare on the internet can be tough even for veteran traders used to the rough and tumble of the pits.
RARE SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
In the fiercely competitive world of physical commodities trading where merchants scour the market for tips, @energyrosen was a relatively rare voice on social media. On some days, he received as many as 800 direct Twitter messages.
His departure unleashed pleas on Thursday and Friday for his return from his followers, who missed his real-time tweets and commentary on everything from crude demand, prices, refinery margins to closely-watched weekly storage data.
"He's a class act and spends his time helping traders and investors learn an aspect of the oil industry that they wouldn't learn otherwise," said trader Anthony Crudele, who has followed Rosenfeldt for a long time.
Swiss-based consultancy Petromatrix tweeted, "Missing @energyrosen; if you are out there under another name, thanks for all and please come back after the holiday."
Others simply expressed gratitude.
CLAIMS OF MISLEADING TWEETS
Rosenfeldt's departure followed a squabble with another Twitter user, Joshua Demasi, whose user name is @joshuademasi. Demasi in tweets accused Rosenfeldt of making bearish tweets about oil in early May but later saying he was bullish all along.
"@EnergyRosen I think you give valuable info, but no one is above reproach. To tweet bearishly and then say I was long all along is dishonest," tweeted Demasi, who has 2,422 followers.
Demasi, a strategist and portfolio manager at Loomis, Sayles & Co, according to his LinkedIn profile, said he hoped Rosenfeldt would come back.
"If he did indeed leave for good, that is too bad ... I was merely seeking clarification about some of his posts and thought our interaction to be innocuous," Demasi told Reuters in a direct Twitter message.
Rosenfeldt, who is vice president of sales, supply and trading at PAPCO Inc, said Demasi may have misinterpreted his comments on intraday price moves made within the confines of Twitter's 140-character limit.
The ensuing exchange between the two men is not publicly visible in its entirety because Rosenfeldt's account has been removed from Twitter since his departure.
On Tuesday, Demasi changed his username to make his account anonymous, saying he was "forced go dark" because he could not have his interactions on Twitter interfere with his career.
While Rosenfeldt is off Twitter for now, he did not rule out a return. "Yesterday morning, I would have said something different but after receiving (lots of) emails... I am thinking maybe a break. So we'll see," he said on Friday.
(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)