FOMC Rate Increase Rocks Equity Markets, Energy Futures Unshaken

Market TalkThursday, Mar 23 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Stocks didn’t like the FOMC’s move to increase the fed funds rate by 25 points even as it acknowledged that recent banking developments will weigh on economic activity, or the economic projections that showed inflation expectations moving higher than previously forecast and had their worst day in 2 weeks following those announcements. 

Even though energy and equity markets have seen their correlation strengthen in March following the banking crisis, the drop in equities did little to slow the recovery rally in energy that stretched to a third day Wednesday. We are seeing a more cautious start this morning with both WTI and ULSD seeing modest losses early, while RBOB continues to push higher for a 4th day. 

Gasoline futures are seeming to get a small boost from reports that Monroe was forced to shut an FCC unit at its Trainer PA refinery following a fire Monday. As the charts below show, PADD 1 refinery runs are already at the low end of their seasonal range due to turnaround work at the P66 Bayway facility. Prices to ship products on Colonial have been trading in negative territory lately, and gasoline traders will not want to buy Gulf Coast barrels that have already transitioned to summer grades and bring them to the East Coast that still has a few weeks left to sell winter-grade product, but if this outage is extended, we could see that change next week.

Reports suggest 13% of French fueling stations are tight on supply due to the continuing refinery strikes, with some regions seeing as many as half of their stations out of fuel. The supply disruptions continue to get minimal reaction from global markets with only modest strengthening in time and crack spreads observed so far.  A glut of distillates in Asia, as the Eastern hemisphere deals with an influx of Russian exports (aka the opposite problem the Western hemisphere had last year) is contributing to the lack of reaction to the latest supply disruption.

The EIA reported another 2 million barrels/day of crude oil inventory adjustments last week, while strong exports held domestic inventories steady despite another 14 million barrels being found.  The agency also released its report on its findings for the rapidly growing adjustment, and its plan to update its weekly survey to help the data make more sense. The report admits that the agency has been inadvertently overstating domestic petroleum consumption, by counting light hydrocarbons and unfinished oils blended into crude as if they’ve been used by consumers, which explains the “record high” total demand even while refined products have seen declines in their figures.

Both gasoline and diesel demand did see healthy increases last week, marking a 2nd straight week of improving numbers for both. Diesel consumption is still at the low end of its seasonal range despite two weeks of growth in the EIA’s estimates, while gasoline is just below its 5-year average for this time of year. Retail prices for both are now approaching $1/gallon less than they were a year ago, which should help give a boost to consumption as we move further into spring.

PADD 5 refinery runs saw another healthy increase last week, and a tick up in imports, both of which might help explain the big declines in gasoline and diesel basis values we’ve seen in the past two weeks.  In addition, Wednesday saw a pipeline deal for RD99 executed in the LA market, which will certainly be the first of many as that rapidly increasing supply comes to market. ULSD values did recover from Tuesday’s attempt to liquidate with no liquidity that briefly pushed values down a theoretical 45 cents for the day, although prompt values are still going for 20+ cent discounts to April futures.


The EIA did not yet report Exxon’s 250,000 barrel/day expansion at its Beaumont facility, even though those units have been running for several weeks now. The facility did report an upset in a hydrocracker unit Wednesday, although the impact of that event is still unclear.

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

Market Talk Update 03.23.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Apr 12 2024

Charts Continue To Favor A Push Towards The $3 Mark For Gasoline, While Diesel Prices May Need To Be Dragged Along For The Ride

Energy prices are rallying once again with the expected Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend appearing to be the catalyst for the move. RBOB gasoline futures are leading the way once again, trading up more than a nickel on the day to reach a fresh 7 month high at $2.8280. Charts continue to favor a push towards the $3 mark for gasoline, while diesel prices may need to be dragged along for the ride.

So far it appears that Motiva Pt. Arthur is the only refinery that experienced a noteworthy upset from the storms that swept across the southern half of the country this week. Those storms also delayed the first round of the Masters, which matters more to most traders this week than the refinery upset.

Chevron’s El Segundo refinery in the LA-area reported an unplanned flaring event Thursday, but the big moves once again came from the San Francisco spot market that saw diesel prices rally sharply to 25 cent premiums to futures. The Bay Area now commands the highest prices for spot gasoline and diesel as the conversion of 1 out of the 4 remaining refineries to renewable output is not-surprisingly creating disruptions in the supply chain.

RIN values dropped back below the 50-cent mark, after the recovery rally ran out of steam last week. The EPA is facing numerous legal challenges on the RFS and other policies, and now half of the US states are challenging the agency’s new rule restricting soot emissions. That lack of clarity on what the law actually is or may be is having widespread impacts on environmental credits around the world and makes enforcement of such policies a bit of a joke. Speaking of which, the EPA did just fine a South Carolina company $2.8 million and require that it buy and retire 9 million RINs for improper reporting from 2013-2019. The cost of those RINs now is about 1/3 of what it was this time last year, so slow playing the process definitely appears to have paid off in this case.

The IEA continues to do its best to downplay global demand for petroleum, once again reducing its economic outlook in its Monthly Report even though the EIA and OPEC continue to show growth, and the IEA’s own data shows “Robust” activity in the first quarter of the year. The IEA has come under fire from US lawmakers for changing its priorities from promoting energy security, to becoming a cheerleader for energy transition at the expense of reality.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Apr 11 2024

Diesel Prices Continue To Be The Weak Link In The Energy Chain

Energy prices are ticking modestly lower this morning, despite warnings from the US that an Iranian attack on Israeli interest is “imminent” and reports of weather induced refinery outages, as demand fears seem to be outweighing supply fears temporarily. Diesel prices continue to be the weak link in the energy chain with both the DOE and OPEC reports giving the diesel bears reason to believe lower prices are coming.

The March PPI report showed a lower inflation reading for producers than the Consumer Price Index report, leading to an immediate bounce in equity futures after the big wave of selling we saw yesterday. To put the CPI impact in perspective, a week ago Fed Fund futures were pricing in an 80% chance of an interest rate cut by the FED’s July 31 meeting, and today those odds have shrunk to 40% according to the CME’s FedWatch tool.

OPEC’s monthly oil market report held a steady outlook for economic growth and oil demand from last month’s report, noting the healthy momentum of economic activity in the US. The cartel’s outlook also highlighted significant product stock increases last month that weighed heavily on refining margins, particularly for diesel. Given the US focus on ULSD futures that are deliverable on the East Coast, which continues to have relatively tight supply for diesel, it’s easy to overlook how quickly Asian markets have gotten long on distillates unless of course you’re struggling through the slog of excess supply in numerous west coast markets these days. The OPEC report noted this in a few different ways, including a 33% decline in Chinese product exports as the region simply no longer needs its excess. The cartel’s oil output held steady during March with only small changes among the countries as they hold to their output cut agreements.

If you believe the DOE’s diesel demand estimates, there’s reason to be concerned about domestic consumption after a 2nd straight week of big declines. The current estimate below 3 million barrels/day is something we typically only see the week after Christmas when many businesses shut their doors. We know the DOE’s figures are missing about 5% of total demand due to Renewable Diesel not being included in the weekly stats, and it’s common to see a drop the week after a holiday, but to lose more than a million barrels/day of consumption in just 2 weeks will keep some refiners on edge.

Most PADDs continue to follow their seasonal trends on gasoline with 1 and 2 still in their normal draw down period, while PADD 3 is rebuilding inventories faster than normal following the transition to summer grade products. That rapid influx of inventory in PADD 3 despite robust export activity helps explain the spike in premiums to ship barrels north on Colonial over the past 2 weeks. Gasoline also saw a sizeable drop in its weekly demand estimate, but given the holiday hangover effect, and the fact that it’s in line with the past 2 years, there’s not as much to be concerned about with that figure. While most of the activity happens in PADDs 1-3, the biggest disconnect is coming in PADDs 4 and 5, with gasoline prices in some Colorado markets being sold 50 cents or more below futures, while prices in some California markets are approaching 90 cents above futures.

Severe weather sweeping across the southern US knocked several units offline at Motiva’s Pt Arthur plant (the country’s largest refinery) Wednesday, and it seems likely that Louisiana refineries will see some disruption from the storm that spawned tornadoes close to the Mississippi River refining hub. So far cash markets haven’t reacted much, but they’ll probably need more time to see what damage may have occurred.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action