Energy Futures Knocked Backwards

Market TalkWednesday, Feb 13 2019
Energy Futures Knocked Backwards

The latest rally attempt in energy futures was knocked backwards sharply in Tuesday’s session, but the bulls dusted themselves off overnight and are giving it another shot this morning. Equity markets around the world continue to celebrate signals that the China-US trade war may be cooling, which seems to be aiding the early optimism in energy contracts.

As it often does when we approach an RVP transition, RBOB gasoline is leading the volatility, rallying by 5 cents mid-morning Tuesday, only to drop back 4.5 cents in the afternoon. Overnight, the swings have continued with 2.5 cent gains largely evaporating as of this writing. Reports of unplanned refinery maintenance around the country continue to create volatility in refined products.

It’s alphabet soup time: In just two days we’re getting monthly reports from the EIA, IEA & OPEC, along with the normal weekly reports from the API and DOE.

The API reportedly showed crude oil stocks declining by just under 1 million barrels last week, distillates dropped by around 2.5 million barrels, while gasoline stocks rose 750,000. The DOE/EIA’s weekly estimate will be out at its normal time this morning.

The IEA released its monthly oil market report this morning, holding its demand estimates for 2019 steady, while increasing its global supply forecast) as US oil production continues to swell to record highs. The theme of US oil production growth in 2019 being enough to offset OPEC’s intentional and unintentional production cuts was consistent in all 3 of the OPEC, IEA and EIA monthly reports. Of course, since everyone agrees, that sets the stage for a big move in the market if it doesn’t pan out.

The EIA and IEA reports also focused on the growing issue of quality vs quantity of oil driven by decreasing heavy oil supplies and their potential impact on US Gulf Coast Refiners.

From the IEA

Crude oil quality is another issue, and, in the wider context of supply in the early part of 2019, it is even more important. Sanctions against Iran, a fall in OPEC supply of 930 kb/d in January, sanctions against PDVSA and Alberta supply cuts all impact directly on the supply of heavy, sour oil. In the case of PDVSA, its oil is typically of the heaviest quality and requires the addition of significant quantities of imported diluents or domestic blending. With the import of diluents now sanctioned by the US, and problems in producing its own lighter crudes, PDVSA will have a tough job to make enough on spec barrels available for export. This is before it gets to the issue of who will buy them.

Long before the US shale revolution took off, Gulf Coast refiners had invested in equipment to process barrels expected to get heavier and sourer.

The EIA’s Short Term Energy Outlook also noted the record-setting weakness in gasoline margins over the past 3 months:

From November through January, the RBOB–Brent crack spread was negative for 43 of the 62 trading days, a record amount of time the crack spread was negative for any three-month period since RBOB began trading in 2005. The low cracks spreads reflect relatively flat gasoline demand growth relative to strong supply globally, resulting in elevated inventory levels.

Gasoline inventories are high in every major storage hub globally and are likely contributing to low crack spreads. As of the first week of February, inventories were 15% and 24% higher than their five-year (2014–18) averages in Singapore and the Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Antwerp (ARA) hubs, respectively. In the United States, gasoline inventories reached an all-time high of nearly 260 million barrels for the week ending January 18.

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Market TalkFriday, Mar 1 2024

Oil Futures Are Leading The Energy Complex In A Modest Rally To Begin March Trading

Oil futures are leading the energy complex in a modest rally to begin March trading, with WTI and Brent both up around $1.50/barrel, while refined products are adding around 2 cents in the early going.

RBOB gasoline futures rolled to a summer-grade RVP with the April contract in prompt position this morning. West Coast cash markets are already converted to summer grades, so they’re holding their premiums to futures, while the markets east of the Rockies are now trading at substantial discounts to futures as they move through their remaining winter-cycles over the next 4-6 weeks. The high trade for the April RBOB contract last month was just north of $2.63, which sets the first layer of resistance to a March madness gasoline rally just about 3 cents north of current values.

While gasoline looks somewhat bullish on the charts, and has seasonal factors working in its favor, diesel prices look weak in comparison with prices reaching a 6-week low Thursday before finally finding a bid, and the roll to April futures cut out 3 cents from prompt values. Diesel prices also don’t enjoy the seasonal benefits of gasoline, with a winter-that-wasn’t offering no help for supplemental diesel demand to replace natural gas in the US or Europe.

Speaking of winter weather, the West Coast continues to get the worst of it in 2024, with a casual 10 feet of snow with 100+ mile an hour wind gusts hitting the Sierra Nevada range. While the worst of that winter storm is happening far from the coast, the San Francisco bay area is under a gale warning starting this afternoon.

The wildfires in the Texas panhandle are now the largest in state history, impacting more than 1 million acres of land. The P66 Borger refinery is caught between the blazes, but so far has not reported any operational issues or plans to change operations at the facility. Valero’s McKee refinery is located just 50 miles from Borger, but looks to be far enough north and West to not be threatened by the fires, for now at least.

Mass Exxodus? A Reuters report noted that Exxon had notified its traders that it was cutting their salaries, in another sign that the major’s move back into trading wasn’t going so well. Exxon’s Exodus has already been a bit of a joke for the past few years, and now that the traders are being targeted, don’t be surprised if the cube photos are taken to a new level.

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Market TalkThursday, Feb 29 2024

It's Another Mixed Start For Energy Futures This Morning After Refined Products Saw Some Heavy Selling Wednesday

It's another mixed start for energy futures this morning after refined products saw some heavy selling Wednesday. Both gasoline and diesel prices dropped 7.5-8.5 cents yesterday despite a rather mundane inventory report. The larger-than-expected build in crude oil inventories (+4.2 million barrels) was the only headline value of note, netting WTI futures a paltry 6-cent per barrel gain on the day.

The energy markets seem to be holding their breath for this morning’s release of the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The price index is the Fed’s preferred inflation monitor and has the potential to impact how the central bank moves forward with interest rates.

Nationwide refinery runs are still below their 5-year average with utilization across all PADDs well below 90%. While PADD 3 production crossed its 5-year average, it’s important to note that measure includes the “Snovid” shutdown of 2021 and throughput is still below the previous two years with utilization at 81%.

We will have to wait until next week to see if the FCC and SRU shutdowns at Flint Hills’ Corpus Christi refinery will have a material impact on the regions refining totals. Detail on the filing can be found on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website.

Update: the PCE data shows a decrease in US inflation to 2.4%, increasing the likelihood of a rate cut later this year. Energy futures continue drifting, unfazed.

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

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