A Strong Start To July
It’s a strong start to July with refined products rallying more than a nickel in the early going, and crude oil prices reaching fresh 2.5 year highs. The OPEC meeting is underway and will likely create some volatility today as rumors start trickling out of the meeting ahead of the official announcement.
Tropical storm Elsa has formed in the Atlantic, and looks like it will hit Florida early next week. It’s still early in the season so the waters haven’t reached their warmest levels yet which should keep this storm from reaching hurricane strength. The forecast cone currently keeps the storm east of the oil refining and production region of the Gulf of Mexico, and if that holds, this should not be a supply threat beyond some headaches in the ports as the storm passes.
Wednesday’s DOE report added to the bullish sentiment for oil as US inventories saw another large decline, a 6th straight week of falling inventories, and one of the largest monthly declines on record. Total US Petroleum demand climbed for a third straight week and is holding above its seasonal average for this time of year. The exception in the report was gasoline, which saw a drop in the weekly demand estimate and a build in inventories. The DOE also reduced its gasoline demand estimates from the spring in its latest monthly update, although that’s done little to stop the rally as RBOB futures just reached their highest level in nearly 7 years in the past few minutes.
The exception to the weaker gasoline fundamentals is the PADD 4, which has by far the fewest people and thus the least amount of gasoline of the districts and is typically ignored in the weekly statistics given its volume amounts to a rounding error. This week however it could be the canary in the coal mine for the industry as it deals with the resumption in demand following so many refinery closures in the past year. Regional inventories have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly a decade as Colorado’s sole refinery struggles through a turnaround, and 2 of the main backup options nearby are no longer operating as oil refineries.
RINs have been uncharacteristically quiet the past couple of days after the Supreme Court ruling rippled through the market Friday and Monday. That relative lack of volatility may not last long however as grain prices saw a strong rally following the USDA’s crop report which showed fewer acres planted than many reports expected, setting the stage for stronger values in the back half of the week.
Abandoning ship: Shell continues to shed assets, with a sale of its share in a California production JV coming according to a new Reuters report. Meanwhile, Chevron is looking to sell some of its stake in the Permian, which should provide a good test of the new theory that US producers are showing discipline in their spending even now that prices are near 3 year highs pushing companies back into the black.
The EIA this morning published a note highlighting that non-fossil fuel sources reached 21% of total energy consumption in the US last year, the highest levels in more than a century, when wood was the renewable energy of choice. The report does point out that Nuclear power remains the largest non-fossil fuel category by usage, while petroleum’s share has held relatively steady the past several years. Those various sources of energy are facing multiple tests this week as temperatures & electricity usage have surged from coast to coast.
Another EIA report yesterday highlighted vulnerable areas of the country’s power grid this summer, with the majority of the country listed as an elevated or high risk of outage. New York was one of the relatively few states given a low risk status in the report, and right on cue, government officials are calling for conservation this week as the heat wave is giving their grid a tough test.