Energy Futures Are Seeing A Big Pullback To Start Thanksgiving Eve Trading

Market TalkWednesday, Nov 23 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy futures are seeing a big pullback to start Thanksgiving eve trading, wiping out most of Tuesday’s gains. As traders continue to deal with a daily deluge of dreadful demand headlines from China, offset by uncertainty surrounding supply thanks to OPEC rumors and a plan to cap Russian oil prices that leaves more questions than answers

More refinery problems seem to have contributed to runup in RBOB futures in the early part of the week, although this morning’s pullback suggests the market really isn’t too worried about gasoline supply. Reports that the Irving refinery on the East Coast of Canada was facing challenges restarting after a major fall turnaround and that BP’s plant in Rotterdam was unable to restart due to a strike are both making waves in futures and physical markets, and could be key factors driving trading as we approach the end of November. Meanwhile, Bulgaria announced that it will exempt its refinery owned by Russia’s Lukoil to continue exporting fuels after the EU embargo starts next month, adding yet another loophole to the attempted sanctions on Russian supplies.

Cash markets around most of the US weren’t buying the futures rally Tuesday, with basis values tumbling for both gasoline and diesel. On the West Coast, gasoline basis values have dropped to their lowest levels in 2 years with discounts ranging from 25-30 cents/gallon, just two weeks after trading at a $1/gallon premium to December RBOB futures. New York harbor diesel has completed its return to earth, trading at just a penny premium to December ULSD futures, just two weeks after reaching an all-time high of $1.25/gallon. Gulf Coast distillates continue to get hammered, trading at a 36 cent discount to Dec ULSD, as refiners continue to struggle to find enough transportation to move their product.

An often-overlooked detail in the breathless reporting of diesel shortages is that the US actually produces more than a million barrels/day more diesel than it consumes, with producers relying heavily on the export market to keep their facilities moving at maximum capacity. What seems to be happening lately is that the refinery hubs have plenty of supply as run rates have been maxed out, but pipeline and vessel availability is lacking, forcing huge discounts for generic origin barrels, and big premiums for anyone who has space along the pipelines heading East and West, or a ship that’s not already booked up. A prime example: With New York ULSD now trading close to par with futures, you might think that the price for space along Colonial would collapse, but it’s holding north of 15 cents as Gulf Coast refiners are paying up to find a home for the diesel they want so badly to continue overproducing given current margins. 

The API reported that diesel stocks increased by 1.1 million barrels last week, while gasoline stocks declined by 400,000 barrels. Crude oil stocks declined by more than 4 million barrels, even though the SPR released more than a million barrels on the week, which has helped make that brief contango in WTI prices disappear.  The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time today, with the import/export flows key numbers to watch.

Futures will trade in abbreviated sessions Thursday and Friday but spot markets will not be assessed. Even though many would prefer if nothing happened for the next 4 days, rack prices can and will change over the long holiday weekend, especially if we see a big market move like we did last year. 

RIN values continue to slowly but steadily climb to an 18 month high as the market awaits the EPA’s big announcement on its new plans for the RFS next week. 

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Market Talk Update 11.23.22

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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.