Inflation Fears Seem To Be Taking Credit For The Selloff In Both Energy And Equity Markets

Market TalkTuesday, Dec 14 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

After a soft finish Monday, energy futures have moved modestly lower again this morning after another failed rally attempt overnight. Inflation fears seem to be taking credit for the selloff in both energy and equity markets as the last meeting of the year for the FOMC has investors suddenly seeming nervous. 

A lot has changed in the past month as the FED seems to have changed its stance while inflation continues to hit new 40 year highs and unemployment has dropped sharply. While almost no-one expects a rate increase at this meeting, the CME’s FEDWATCH tool shows that a majority now expect at least one rate increase by May, whereas a month ago only 1/3 expected to see an increase by then.  While so far the FED’s pivot hasn’t had a big impact on equity or energy values, there’s a case to be made that a hawkish FED is reason to sell any rallies, whereas over most of the past two years a money printing FED was a reason to buy any dips.

Speaking of which, futures sold off sharply in the 2 minutes following the release of the PPI reading for November that showed producer prices have climbed 9.6% over the past 12 months, a record high for that reading, which will no doubt catch the attention of the FOMC, and provide another data point for those that want to tighten up monetary policy. 

The FED meeting seems to be overshadowing the monthly data deluge from the alphabet soup of oil market reporting groups.

OPEC’s monthly oil market report was highlighted by a forecast that Omicron is, “…expected to be mild and short-lived, as the world becomes better equipped to manage COVID-19 and its related challenges.”  The report did shift the growth estimates originally marked for Q4 2021 to Q1 2022, but kept the overall demand estimates for next year unchanged. 

The IEA’s monthly oil market report took a more bearish tone, reducing its demand estimates for both 2021 and 2022 due to restrictions on international travel caused by the surge in COVID cases, and projecting that global supplies are set to outpace that demand starting in December. The report highlights the recovery in US oil production as a leading cause for the supply increases, and notes that the world’s 3 largest producers could all reach record levels next year.

Bothe the OPEC and IEA reports highlighted an increase in global refinery runs over the past few months, and note that Omicron is likely to hurt those refinery margins as facilities will once again have to get creative to find a home for their excess jet fuel.

The EIA’s monthly drilling report is projecting that both oil and gas production in the Permian basin will reach record highs in January, while none of the other major US shale basins is even close to recovering to pre-COVID production levels. This article on the boom in export facilities along the gulf coast offers a look into why the focus remains on the Permian, and into the efforts to try and prevent those export facilities from being built.

RIN markets continue to struggle to digest the changes to the RFS program announced last week. D6 ethanol RINs remain the most volatile, dropping 20 cents before the announcements, then rallying 40 cents after the announcements, only to drop 20 cents over the past 2 days.   D4 RINs meanwhile have a large backwardation, with 2021 values trading some 20 cents above 2022 values. 

The EPA this morning published a notice of opportunity to comment on their proposed denial of all petitions for small refinery waivers to the RFS, which claimed that since all market participants face the same RIN prices, no disproportionate economic hardship exists for those smaller plants.  Assuming the proposal sticks, that would add roughly 4.5 billion RINs to the total obligated amount needed over the past 3 years. 

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

Market Talk Update 12.14.21

News & Views

View All
Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkMonday, Dec 5 2022

The Officially Imposed Sanctions Against Russian Oil Exports Are Taking Credit For This Morning’s Gains In Energy Prices

The officially imposed sanctions against Russian oil exports are taking credit for this morning’s gains in energy prices. Brent futures, the benchmark for European crude oil, are leading the pack higher so far today, trading up nearly 3%. West Texas Intermediate futures, along with both American refined product contracts, are tagging along with 1.5-2.5% gains.

OPEC’n’friends decided to stay pat on their Production Reduction™ policy through the end of the year, which aims to remove about 2 million barrels per day from global oil inventories. The relatively muted response in energy futures action suggests the ban on Russian crude and the continued reduction in cartel oil supply were both largely priced in.

It seems we have averted disaster last Friday as Washington passed legislation to prevent rail workers from going on strike. While the vast majority of refined products are transported to market hubs via pipeline, the required ethanol component of retail gasoline is by-and-large supplied via railcars.

Heating Oil futures stand out as the lone contract of the ‘big five’ that saw increased bullish bets from money managers last week, mostly due to the trimming of short positions rather than the addition of long positions. It seems fewer and fewer traders are willing to bet on lower diesel prices heading into the winter, where distillates act as backup supply for heating homes.

Market participants in crude oil futures fell to lows not seen since 2016 last week. It seems the global uncertainty surrounding energy supply and infrastructure has some potential players taking a wait-and-see approach rather than betting on price direction.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Dec 2 2022

The Energy Complex Is Trading Mostly Lower So Far This Morning

The energy complex is trading mostly lower so far this morning, with prompt month RBOB futures leading the way. Brent crude oil is struggling to hold on to overnight gains and it is exchanging hands on the green side of even, if only just.

The easing of quarantine protocols in China is taking partial credit for the weekly gain in WTI futures this morning, despite the emergence of reports and images showing provisional camps set up to enforce isolation and curb the latest spread of the pandemic.

The “ban” on Russian crude oil, set to take effect on Monday, has yet to reach final approval in Europe. Poland seems to be one of the last holdouts and has not been shy about wanting the price cap to be as low as possible.

Sunday’s OPEC+ meeting, which will reportedly be held virtually, is also getting some play in the headlines this morning. While some consider the setting of the meeting to telegraph no change in the cartel’s production policy, others posit the group is considering cuts ahead of next week’s oil ban.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published the November jobs report this morning, an increase in nonfarm payrolls of 263,000 while unemployment rate held pat at 3.7%. The stock market did not like that: S&P 500 futures dropped 1.4% on the news as traders expect higher-than-expected job growth to buttress the Fed’s intent on continuing to raise interest rates.

The EPA published their proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard for the next three years and is now seeking public opinion on their target levels. Their report also estimates that the RIN obligations will reduce US oil imports by ~170,000 barrels per year. Is that a typo? We imported 6 million barrels per day last week, for reference.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Dec 1 2022

December Trading Is Kicking Off With Modest Gains For Energy Contracts

December trading is kicking off with modest gains for energy contracts after a strong finish to November helped the complex avoid a technical breakdown.  

Equity markets saw another big rally Wednesday after the FED chair suggested that smaller rate hikes were coming. The correlation between energy and equity markets remains weak, so it doesn’t seem like that’s having much influence on daily pricing, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the case for a recovery rally.  New reports that China may ease some lockdowns in the wake of last weekend’s protests is also getting some credit for the strength in prices after they reached 11 month lows on Monday.

The DOE’s weekly report had something for everyone with crude oil stocks showing some bullish figures while refined product supplies got some much-needed relief.

US Crude oil inventories saw a huge drop of more than 12 million barrels last week thanks to a surge in exports to the 3rd highest level on record, a drop in imports, and the SPR sales that have been supplementing commercial supplies for the past 6 months wind down. The market reaction was fairly muted to the big headline drop, which is probably due to the inconsistent nature of the import/export flows, which are likely to reverse course next week. The lack of SPR injections will be a key figure to watch through the winter, particularly as the Russian embargo starts next week.

Diesel inventories increases across all 5 PADDs last week, as demand dipped again and imports ticked higher. Diesel exports remain above average, and are expected to continue that pace in the near term as European and Latin American buyers continue to be short. Read this note for why in the long term more of those supplies will probably come from China or Kuwait

US refiners continue to run all-out, with total throughput last week reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic, even though we’ve lost more than 600,000 barrels/day of capacity since then. Those high run rates at a time of soft demand help explain why we’re seeing big negative basis values at the refining hubs around the country and if the pipeline and vessel outlets can’t keep pace to move that product elsewhere we may see those refiners forced to cut back due to lack of storage options.

The EPA was required by court order to submit its plans for the renewable fuel standard by November 16, and then came to an agreement to release them on November 30, and then apparently decided to meet that deadline, but not release the plan to the public. If you think this is ridiculous, you’re not alone, but keep in mind this is the same agency that regularly missed the statutory deadline by more than a year previously, so it’s also not too surprising. This is also the law that required 16 billion gallons/year of cellulosic biofuels be blended by 2022 when it was put into place 15 years ago, only to run into a wall of physical reality where the country is still unable to produce even 1 billion gallons/year of that fuel. 

There are still expectations that the public may get to see the proposed rulings later this week, and reports that renewable electricity generation will be added to the mix for the first time ever starting next year. RIN prices were pulling back from the 18 month highs they reached leading up to the non-announcement as it seems the addition of “eRINs” will add new RIN supply, and potentially offset the increased biofuel mandates.

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