Debate Over Economic Restarts Face Off Against Fears

Market TalkWednesday, May 13 2020
Traders Torn As Opposing Trend Lines Converge

The holding pattern continues for oil prices this week as a debate over signs of economic restarts, both domestically and abroad, face off against fears of a second-wave of the coronavirus. WTI and ULSD futures are both holding in their recent trading range, while RBOB futures are breaking their upward trend, and threatening a larger selloff.

We’re in the data-deluge week with the EIA, OPEC and IEA all releasing their monthly reports, in addition to the weekly API and DOE data. The first three of those reports have been released already and show a common theme of slowly improving fuel demand, spread unevenly across the various refined products.

OPEC’s oil output rose by 1.8 million barrels/day in April, as Saudi Arabia made good on its threat to flood the global market right as the world was experiencing the largest demand drop in history. That story should flip in May as the price war has ended, and country’s slowly reopen for business.

The API was reported to estimate that U.S. oil inventories built by 7.5 million barrels last week, which was larger than most published forecasts.

The industry group also estimated another gasoline inventory draw-down of 1.9 million barrels, while distillates were up by 4.7 million barrels. You’d be forgiven if you thought the API showed the opposite build/draw in inventories based on the price reaction overnight with RBOB down two cents and ULSD up one, which suggests the early action may have more to do with the charts after RBOB’s trend line broke Tuesday.

Wheels off the charts: The EIA’s monthly short term energy outlook showed how the wild action of the past two months has broken the mold. The front page of that report typically shows a price forecast for WTI, including 95 percent confidence intervals for those projections. This month the EIA is “unable to construct” those intervals because of “data issues” surrounding the extreme volatility and lack of liquidity in options markets it created. In other words, given the two standard deviation from the mean calculation of a confidence interval, and prices doing what they’ve done, the price estimate is around 30 dollars for WTI, but the confidence would be somewhere in the range of plus or minus $50/barrel from that mark.

The STEO was able to estimate that global energy consumption will start outpacing production in the back half of this year, and that energy related CO2 emissions would fall by 11 percent, the largest drop in over 70 years of data.

The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its regular time this morning. Watch the refinery yield and export figures to see how refineries are reacting to their undesirable transition from an excess of gasoline inventory to a glut of diesel. While it may take a few weeks for plants to shift gears, and longer still to show up in the data, the increased complexity and flexibility of many U.S. refineries seems to be more capable of solving the demand puzzle than ever before.

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

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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.