Energy Prices Are Bouncing After 2 days Of Heavy Selling To Start The Week

Market TalkWednesday, Mar 16 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy prices are bouncing after 2 days of heavy selling to start the week.  While the moves so far are mild compared to what we’ve been used to so far in March, technical and fundamental factors are hinting that there may be more room to move higher in the weeks to come. 

RBOB futures closed the chart gap left behind by the roll to the summer spec contract at the end of February during Tuesday’s melt-down, but held above its bullish trend-line on the weekly report, both of which are bullish factors leaving room on the charts for more upside just in time for the seasonal jump in demand. ULSD also managed to hang onto the upward sloping trend line despite dropping 30 cents on Tuesday, and was rewarded with a 10 cent bounce so far today.

The IEA is reducing its global oil demand estimate by 1.3 million barrels/day for the rest of the year, and its refinery throughput by 1.1 million barrels/day both due to the war in Ukraine, which it says, “…could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades.” The report also notes that only Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the capacity to bring more oil to the global market quickly, and the other options will take several months at a minimum, IF agreements can be made.

OPEC left its global demand estimate “under assessment” in its March oil output, acknowledging that the fallout from the war in Ukraine will lead to a decline in consumption, but not willing to make an official guess by how much given the chaotic and rapid nature of the changes taking place in the global economy. 

Speaking of which, the chaotic trading of the past couple of weeks is also creating concerns of a repeat of the 2008 liquidity crisis, with billions of dollars in margin calls putting some companies on the brink of insolvency. Since 2008, banks have been finding new ways to circumvent the laws put in place to keep them acting like banks and not the biggest oil traders in the world (which is why the actual traders have to rush their EFP orders to the exchange in 15 minutes or less) and now Barclays has announced it was suspending its ETN tied to crude oil after it realized that pushing these contracts on its customers is not a good idea when prices are moving this quickly. 

For those that remember the oil price spike that killed Semgroup in 2008, and its “bank’s” alleged role in that short squeeze, it’s not hard to imagine the fallout that could still come from the whipsaw action we just witnessed over the past two weeks. 

If you think that’s a little dramatic, just look at what happened in the Nickel market again this morning.

Speaking of dramatic, West Coast gasoline markets are doing their diva impressions once again, with basis values in both northern and southern California soaring to nearly $1/gallon over futures as refinery disruptions and a lack of replacement options thanks to the state’s boutique grades hammer those markets while other regions have enjoyed a bit of relief as prices have pulled back sharply over the past week.

The API reported a draw in gasoline stocks last week of nearly 3.8 million barrels, while distillates had a small build of less than 1 million barrels. There is plenty of evidence of a spike in demand over the past couple of weeks as consumers panicked over rising prices and potential supply shortages, which could manifest as large inventory draws in today’s DOE report. 

The FOMC announcement is expected at 1pm central. According to the CME’s fedwatch tool, just about everyone expects a 25 point rate increase today (the first increase in 3 years) and just about everyone is planning that this will be the first of at least 6 rate hikes for the year.

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

Market Talk Update 3.16.22

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Dec 9 2022

Energy Futures Are Seeing Modest Gains To Start Friday’s Session

Energy futures are seeing modest gains to start Friday’s session, limping towards the finish line of a week that’s pushed prices to their lowest levels of the year, and cut 20-30 cents off of refined products. 

WTI futures have had a fairly muted reaction to news that the Keystone pipeline was forced to shut after more than ½ million gallons reportedly spilled into a Kansas creek this week. A timeline for restart is still unclear, but so far the price action suggests refiners aren’t panicking about where they’ll find replacement barrels, and those north of the spill may be rewarded with discounted barrels that now find themselves stranded, such as Western Canadian Select which is now trading down to $50/barrel.  

If RBOB can finish in the green today, it would mark the first trading day so far in December where the gasoline contract didn’t end lower, after 6 straight losing sessions. Cash markets are also looking weak, as the spread between gasoline prices in New York and the Gulf Coast dropped to its lowest level since early October this week, putting downward pressure on the price to lease space on Colonial’s Line 1. With refiners running full out to capture huge diesel margins, gasoline is becoming an unwelcome byproduct in many markets, and could become oversupplied in some regions in the near future, which could force some plants to reduce run rates. 

Distillate prices are seeing a similar convergence with the spread between Gulf and East coasts now less than 30 cents/gallon, which is more than $1/gallon lower than it was a month ago. Softer demand for both products due to the seasonal slowdown in gasoline and unseasonably warm weather limiting Heating Oil consumption are both getting credit for these cash markets suddenly returning to something more closely resembling what we’re used to seeing. 

Bad news is good news for stock markets as any negative data points may give the FED reason to slow their interest rate hikes.  Yesterday we saw stocks rally after an increase in jobless claims in the US. Today we’re seeing stocks give back some of yesterday’s gains after the PPI report showed inflation is remaining stubbornly high and above many forecasts, giving the FED another reason to continue with its tightening. Energy contracts continue to have a weak correlation to daily moves in equity prices, so it’s not too surprising we are seeing a small rally today even though stocks are pulling back.

Chinese refiners are racing to take advantage of liberal quotas this year and are expected to reach a record level of refined fuel exports this month.  Those supplies have provided a much needed supplement for a world short on distillates, but there are many questions and few answers about what they’ll look like next year.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Dec 8 2022

Refined Product Prices Are Bouncing Moderately This Morning After Selling Off Heavily For A Fifth Consecutive Trading Session Yesterday

Refined product prices are bouncing moderately this morning after selling off heavily for a fifth consecutive trading session yesterday. Heating oil futures have dropped over 50 cents per gallon since the beginning of the month as traders reconcile rebounding national distillate inventories, a warmer-than-expected European winter, dismal Chinese demand outlook, and the execution of the ban on Russian oil exports. Gasoline futures have dropped just over 25 cents so far in December while the West Texas Intermediate crude oil contract has fallen just $5 per barrel since last week.

The Department of Energy reported a 5.2 million barrel draw in crude oil inventories last week, marking the fourth consecutive week of stockpile drawdowns. On the flip side, national gasoline and diesel stocks likewise grew for the fourth week in a row, which makes sense given refineries are running near their 5-year seasonal high. Total refined product demand continued to sink, as typical of this time of year before everyone jumps in their cars to drive to grandma’s for Christmas.  

Oil futures have fallen below the $80 mark this week and have now given up all gains seen since Russia invaded Ukraine. While China’s relaxation of their pandemic policy should provide some upward pressure on oil prices, in theory, it seems most aren’t convinced the lack of restrictions will translate to increased petroleum demand.

Premiums to ship gasoline and diesel on the Colonial Pipeline (the main US’s petroleum artery going from Houston to New York) have dropped significantly over the past few days. Shippers can now move gasoline up the Eastern seaboard for “only” 9 cents above the pipeline’s tariff, which is the lowest its been since October. Moving diesel to the Northeast will run you 7 cents over costs.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Dec 7 2022

The Downward Price Action Seen In Monday’s Trading Session Continued Into Tuesday

The downward price action seen in Monday’s trading session continued into Tuesday and energy futures charts are poised to test some significant resistance levels. Most notably, the prompt month ULSD futures contract is set to test its 100-week moving average at the ~$2.80 level, beyond which the path is open for prices to fall down to the $2.20s.

WTI crude oil futures face a tough test these next couple months as it bears down on its 200-month moving average which, if broken, could lead prices down to the $65 range. The energy complex is bouncing this morning, albeit moderately, on the news that China is abandoning its COVID testing and quarantine protocols. The mild upward price action suggests traders are hesitant to believe that will translate to a return of energy demand.

The Energy Information Administration published its monthly Short Term Energy Outlook yesterday, highlighting its higher-than-expected global oil inventory level estimate for 2023. The EIA also noted that the execution of the ban on Russian seaborne petroleum products by the European Union has rendered the future of distillate remarkedly hazy. Price direction for diesel’s home-heating counterpart seems a little easier to forecast: moderately higher prices are expected through January as winter sets in and demand ramps up.

The American Petroleum Institute reported a sizeable 6.4 million barrel draw in US crude oil inventories last week, along with builds in refined product stocks of 5.9 million barrels and 3.6 million barrels of gasoline and diesel, respectively. The official report published by the Department of Energy is due to come out at its regular time this morning (9:30am CST) and its confirmation or contradiction of the API’s estimate will likely determine the day’s trading sentiment.

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