Conflicting Headlines And Inventory Data Points Continue To Confound The Market

Market TalkThursday, Nov 4 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy contracts had their biggest 1-day selloff since July on Wednesday as a steady round of selling that started Tuesday afternoon continued throughout the day. Just when it looked like that the bulls had thrown in the towel and we were in for a technical breakdown, prices have rallied sharply overnight, wiping out most of Wednesday’s big losses as conflicting headlines and inventory data points continue to confound the market.

No official announcement from OPEC yet, but most reports continue to show expectations that the cartel will stick with its current output plan, in spite of pressure from world leaders to increase more.

Headlines about Iran seem to be causing at least some of the whiplash in prices, with news of a return to nuclear negotiations getting credit for some of Wednesday’s selling, followed by Iran claiming that the US had tried to seize one of its oil tankers in the Sea of Oman reminding everyone that negotiating with Iran is a fool’s errand challenging. 

Equity markets have rallied to new record highs after the FOMC made it clear that they still believe inflation levels at their highest levels in 30 years are still transitory, and that the FED can be patient with interest rate hikes. Even though the correlation between energy and equity markets has been close to zero in recent weeks, the market’s reaction to that statement does seem to take a fear-induced selloff off the table for now.

Who would ever guess that on a day when the DOE reported US Gasoline inventories reached a 4 year low, and PADD 1 inventories (home to the NYMEX delivery hub) reached a 7 year low, would also be the day when gasoline futures had their biggest daily drop in nearly 4 months. Of course, given the size of the rally over the past 1, 4 and 18 months, this seems a little bit like the market’s tendency to buy the rumor and sell the news, in this case pertaining to tightening supplies. This is also a good reminder that the futures market is less concerned about where we are today, than where we are headed, and with seasonal factors all pointing to gasoline stocks building steadily over the coming months, and high prices surely to dent consumption, it’s getting harder to see a reason to keep on betting on prices above a 7 year high.

Despite the big bounce this morning, charts near term continue to favor lower prices as refined products are setting lower lows and lower highs on the daily charts ever since prices peaked in late October. The $2.40 range for RBOB and $2.50 area for ULSD look to be good near term pivot points to watch. If prices can climb back above those levels, there’s a chance we see another run at the October highs, but if they can’t, another big move lower seems likely.

One more bearish factor to consider, it wasn’t just futures that were selling off heavily Wednesday, most cash markets saw basis values decline as well, pushing cash markets even further down on the day. When the big physical traders aren’t believing what the robots are doing the exchange, we’ll often see those diffs move contrary to futures, but yesterday’s action suggests that the concern of the winter demand doldrums for gasoline is real. No such concerns for ethanol prices however as spots continue to surge to record highs across the country, even as US ethanol output remains well above normal levels. While the ethanol forward curve has become murky due to a lack of trading in those futures, it looks like there’s 50-60 cents of backwardation between now and the end of the year, which means whenever the ethanol logistics logjam breaks there’s going to be a huge move lower in a hurry.   

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk, including all charts from the Weekly DOE Report.

Market Talk Update 11.04.2021

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkMonday, Dec 5 2022

The Officially Imposed Sanctions Against Russian Oil Exports Are Taking Credit For This Morning’s Gains In Energy Prices

The officially imposed sanctions against Russian oil exports are taking credit for this morning’s gains in energy prices. Brent futures, the benchmark for European crude oil, are leading the pack higher so far today, trading up nearly 3%. West Texas Intermediate futures, along with both American refined product contracts, are tagging along with 1.5-2.5% gains.

OPEC’n’friends decided to stay pat on their Production Reduction™ policy through the end of the year, which aims to remove about 2 million barrels per day from global oil inventories. The relatively muted response in energy futures action suggests the ban on Russian crude and the continued reduction in cartel oil supply were both largely priced in.

It seems we have averted disaster last Friday as Washington passed legislation to prevent rail workers from going on strike. While the vast majority of refined products are transported to market hubs via pipeline, the required ethanol component of retail gasoline is by-and-large supplied via railcars.

Heating Oil futures stand out as the lone contract of the ‘big five’ that saw increased bullish bets from money managers last week, mostly due to the trimming of short positions rather than the addition of long positions. It seems fewer and fewer traders are willing to bet on lower diesel prices heading into the winter, where distillates act as backup supply for heating homes.

Market participants in crude oil futures fell to lows not seen since 2016 last week. It seems the global uncertainty surrounding energy supply and infrastructure has some potential players taking a wait-and-see approach rather than betting on price direction.

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk.

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Dec 2 2022

The Energy Complex Is Trading Mostly Lower So Far This Morning

The energy complex is trading mostly lower so far this morning, with prompt month RBOB futures leading the way. Brent crude oil is struggling to hold on to overnight gains and it is exchanging hands on the green side of even, if only just.

The easing of quarantine protocols in China is taking partial credit for the weekly gain in WTI futures this morning, despite the emergence of reports and images showing provisional camps set up to enforce isolation and curb the latest spread of the pandemic.

The “ban” on Russian crude oil, set to take effect on Monday, has yet to reach final approval in Europe. Poland seems to be one of the last holdouts and has not been shy about wanting the price cap to be as low as possible.

Sunday’s OPEC+ meeting, which will reportedly be held virtually, is also getting some play in the headlines this morning. While some consider the setting of the meeting to telegraph no change in the cartel’s production policy, others posit the group is considering cuts ahead of next week’s oil ban.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published the November jobs report this morning, an increase in nonfarm payrolls of 263,000 while unemployment rate held pat at 3.7%. The stock market did not like that: S&P 500 futures dropped 1.4% on the news as traders expect higher-than-expected job growth to buttress the Fed’s intent on continuing to raise interest rates.

The EPA published their proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard for the next three years and is now seeking public opinion on their target levels. Their report also estimates that the RIN obligations will reduce US oil imports by ~170,000 barrels per year. Is that a typo? We imported 6 million barrels per day last week, for reference.

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk.

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Dec 1 2022

December Trading Is Kicking Off With Modest Gains For Energy Contracts

December trading is kicking off with modest gains for energy contracts after a strong finish to November helped the complex avoid a technical breakdown.  

Equity markets saw another big rally Wednesday after the FED chair suggested that smaller rate hikes were coming. The correlation between energy and equity markets remains weak, so it doesn’t seem like that’s having much influence on daily pricing, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the case for a recovery rally.  New reports that China may ease some lockdowns in the wake of last weekend’s protests is also getting some credit for the strength in prices after they reached 11 month lows on Monday.

The DOE’s weekly report had something for everyone with crude oil stocks showing some bullish figures while refined product supplies got some much-needed relief.

US Crude oil inventories saw a huge drop of more than 12 million barrels last week thanks to a surge in exports to the 3rd highest level on record, a drop in imports, and the SPR sales that have been supplementing commercial supplies for the past 6 months wind down. The market reaction was fairly muted to the big headline drop, which is probably due to the inconsistent nature of the import/export flows, which are likely to reverse course next week. The lack of SPR injections will be a key figure to watch through the winter, particularly as the Russian embargo starts next week.

Diesel inventories increases across all 5 PADDs last week, as demand dipped again and imports ticked higher. Diesel exports remain above average, and are expected to continue that pace in the near term as European and Latin American buyers continue to be short. Read this note for why in the long term more of those supplies will probably come from China or Kuwait

US refiners continue to run all-out, with total throughput last week reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic, even though we’ve lost more than 600,000 barrels/day of capacity since then. Those high run rates at a time of soft demand help explain why we’re seeing big negative basis values at the refining hubs around the country and if the pipeline and vessel outlets can’t keep pace to move that product elsewhere we may see those refiners forced to cut back due to lack of storage options.

The EPA was required by court order to submit its plans for the renewable fuel standard by November 16, and then came to an agreement to release them on November 30, and then apparently decided to meet that deadline, but not release the plan to the public. If you think this is ridiculous, you’re not alone, but keep in mind this is the same agency that regularly missed the statutory deadline by more than a year previously, so it’s also not too surprising. This is also the law that required 16 billion gallons/year of cellulosic biofuels be blended by 2022 when it was put into place 15 years ago, only to run into a wall of physical reality where the country is still unable to produce even 1 billion gallons/year of that fuel. 

There are still expectations that the public may get to see the proposed rulings later this week, and reports that renewable electricity generation will be added to the mix for the first time ever starting next year. RIN prices were pulling back from the 18 month highs they reached leading up to the non-announcement as it seems the addition of “eRINs” will add new RIN supply, and potentially offset the increased biofuel mandates.

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk, including all charts from the Weekly DOE Report.