Financial Markets Unimpressed By Debate Performance

Market TalkWednesday, Sep 30 2020
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The wheels came off the energy bus Tuesday, as a four day rally was largely wiped out in a single session. Gasoline prices are now leading the complex lower for a second day, after the leading the move higher during the run up. 

This is the second cycle of the four-days-up, two-days-down pattern for RBOB futures in the back half of September, with a net result of prices increasing seven cents during that time.  Nearly half of those gains will be wiped out when the November contract takes over the prompt position tomorrow, as we slide down the backwardation curve heading into winter. That roll will leave gasoline prices just one decent sell-off away from the lows of the summer trading range, with the seasonal demand drop looming and threatening another move below $1 - should that support finally break. 

The API report seems to be driving the direction in the early going, as a build in gasoline stocks has RBOB under pressure while draws in distillate and crude inventories has those contracts holding steady. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time, 9:30 Central. October RBOB and ULSD contracts are expiring today, so watch the November contracts (RBX & HOX) for direction in the racks. 

Financial markets were apparently not impressed by the debate performance last night, which foreshadows more volatility over the next month as the election looms and potentially even more price swings should the results be contested. While the correlation between equity and energy prices has been hit or miss this year, any major moves in stocks – particularly to the downside – have the ability to pull the energy complex (which is just a fraction of the size of equity markets in dollar terms) along for the ride.

As the momentum builds towards clean(er) energy options, it should be no surprise that Wall Street is being flooded with Green Energy acquisition companies (aka SPAC’s) seeking to capitalize on investor’s desire for new ideas, whether or not they’re proven. The movement certainly has a dot-com bubble feel about it, as the majority of the companies being purchased have no revenue stream, suggesting the move by PE groups to spin them off into the public markets has less to do with creating sustainable green energy platforms, and more with racing to put more green in their own pockets before the appetite for IPOs of unproven companies market dries up.

JP Morgan has reached a settlement with the CFTC and other agencies, and will pay a $920 million fine for trade spoofing in metal and treasury markets. There’s plenty of evidence that similar forms of manipulation have been happening in energy markets over the years as well, but it remains to be seen if any of those cases will come to light. 

Marathon began implementing job cuts nationwide Tuesday, after announcing plans earlier this year to reduce workforce due to demand destruction. Shell is also announcing plans to cut 7,000-9,000 jobs over the next three years, but did not indicate where those cuts would take place.  

Stop Smoking: The EIA published an interesting report on the negative impact California’s wildfires are having on solar electricity production, highlighting yet another challenge with the reliability of the state’s power grid.

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

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Market TalkFriday, Jul 19 2024

Summertime-Friday-Apathy Trade Influencing Energy Markets

Energy markets are treading water to start the day as the Summertime-Friday-Apathy trade seems to be influencing markets around the world in the early going. RBOB futures are trying for a 3rd straight day of gains to wipe out the losses we saw to start the week, while ULSD futures continue to look like the weak link, trading lower for a 2nd day and down nearly 3 cents for the week.

Bad to worse: Exxon’s Joliet refinery remains offline with reports that repairs may take through the end of the month. On top of that long delay in restoring power to the facility, ENT reported this morning that the facility has leaked hydrogen fluoride acid gas, which is a dangerous and controversial chemical used in alkylation units. Chicago basis values continue to rally because of the extended downtime, with RBOB differentials approaching a 50-cent premium to futures, which sets wholesale prices just below the $3 mark, while ULSD has gone from the weakest in the country a month ago to the strongest today. In a sign of how soft the diesel market is over most of the US, however, the premium commanded in a distressed market is still only 2 cents above prompt futures.

The 135mb Calcasieu Refinery near Lake Charles LA has been taken offline this morning after a nearby power substation went out, and early reports suggest repairs will take about a week. There is no word yet if that power substation issue has any impacts on the nearby Citgo Lake Charles or P66 Westlake refineries.

Two tanker ships collided and caught fire off the coast of Singapore this morning. One ship was a VLCC which is the largest tanker in the world capable of carrying around 2 million barrels. The other was a smaller ship carrying “only” 300,000 barrels (roughly 12 million gallons) of naphtha. The area is known for vessels in the “dark fleet” swapping products offshore to avoid sanctions, so a collision isn’t too surprising as the vessels regularly come alongside one another, and this shouldn’t disrupt other ships from transiting the area.

That’s (not) a surprise: European auditors have determined the bloc’s green hydrogen goals are unattainable despite billions of dollars of investment, and are based on “political will” rather than analysis. Also (not) surprising, the ambitious plans to build a “next-gen” hydrogen-powered refinery near Tulsa have been delayed.

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

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Market TalkThursday, Jul 18 2024

Refined Products Stanch Bleeding Despite Inventory Builds And Demand Slump

Refined products are trading slightly lower to start Thursday after they stopped the bleeding in Wednesday’s session, bouncing more than 2 cents on the day for both RBOB and ULSD, despite healthy inventory builds reported by the DOE along with a large slump in gasoline demand.

Refinery runs are still above average across the board but were pulled in PADD 3 due to the short-term impacts of Beryl. The Gulf Coast region is still outpacing the previous two years and sitting at the top end of its 5-year range as refiners in the region play an interesting game of chicken with margins, betting that someone else’s facility will end up being forced to cut rates before theirs.

Speaking of which, Exxon Joliet was reportedly still offline for a 3rd straight day following weekend thunderstorms that disrupted power to the area. Chicago RBOB basis jumped by another dime during Wednesday’s session as a result of that downtime. Still, that move is fairly pedestrian (so far) in comparison to some of the wild swings we’ve come to expect from the Windy City. IIR via Reuters reports that the facility will be offline for a week.

LA CARBOB differentials are moving in the opposite direction meanwhile as some unlucky seller(s) appear to be stuck long and wrong as gasoline stocks in PADD 5 reach their highest level since February, and held above the 5-year seasonal range for a 4th consecutive week. The 30-cent discount to August RBOB marks the biggest discount to futures since 2022.

The EIA Wednesday also highlighted its forecast for rapid growth in “Other” biofuels production like SAF and Renewable Naptha and Propane, as those producers capable of making SAF instead of RD can add an additional $.75/gallon of federal credits when the Clean Fuels Producer’s Credit takes hold next year. The agency doesn’t break out the products between the various “Other” renewable fuels, but the total projected output of 50 mb/day would amount to roughly 2% of total Jet Fuel production if it was all turned to SAF, which of course it won’t as the other products come along for the ride similar to traditional refining processes.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action