Futures Seek Direction Amid Lukewarm Technicals, Mixed Monetary Policies

Market TalkThursday, Jun 15 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The search for direction continues in energy markets, with refined products starting the day with modest gains again Thursday, after a back-and-forth Wednesday session saw early gains turn into losses later in the day. The neutral technical outlook remains in place after ULSD prices failed to make much of an effort to challenge the top end of their 7-week-old trading range, which sets the stage for more back and forth action in the days ahead.

The FED held interest rates steady Wednesday, after 10 straight increases, but made it clear that more rate increases were coming with 12 of 18 voters all seeing the need for more increases this year. The ECB meanwhile raised rates to a 22 year high with a 25 point increase this morning to try and combat inflation, while China’s central bank took the opposite approach and reduced a key lending level to try and get their economic recovery back on track.

The EIA’s refining capacity figure finally caught up to the Exxon Beaumont expansion only 3 months after the fact, showing an increase of 240mb/day in PADD 3 capacity last week, and bringing the utilization percentage back to reality. Total US refinery runs dipped for the first time in 6 weeks but remain above average and year-ago levels thanks in large part to that new capacity coming online.

Gasoline consumption estimates aren’t great, but they are holding above the 5-year average and year-ago levels and export activity remains strong, which is keeping inventories well below average levels despite the strong refinery runs. Gasoline days of forward cover remain at the bottom of the seasonal range, shifting the supply concerns for most of the country from diesel a year ago, to gasoline today. We have seen a large increase in PADD 1 gasoline imports the past two weeks however, which has pulled East Coast inventories off the low end of their seasonal range and helped relieve some of the steep backwardation that had been building in the NYH.

Besides the weekly inventory report, the DOE also highlighted the plight of West Coast diesel demand in its This Week in Petroleum article. The report details how the lack of details on the surge in renewable diesel production is skewing the official figures, which show total diesel inventories much lower than reality, and demand at a 20 year low since most of the RD is not factored into the official estimates yet. 

The IEA’s monthly oil report predicted that global oil demand will reach a new record high this year at 102.3 million barrels/day, with China’s rebound the driving force in those figures, while developed nations remain in a “slump”. The report also suggested that new refining capacity in Oman and Kuwait, and the shift of discounted Russian supply to Asian markets will continue to skew activity away from the Atlantic basin. Meanwhile, a new medium term report from the IEA made longer term estimates for fuel consumption, highlighting once again that while transportation demand for fuels is set to slow in the coming years, the need for plastics will keep petroleum demand growing for decades to come.

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

Market Talk Update 06.15.23

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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