Inflation Reaches A 13-Year High

Market TalkThursday, May 13 2021
Traders Torn As Opposing Trend Lines Converge

Colonial pipeline began restarting operations Wednesday night, and products futures dropped a nickel. Now that the headlines will move on to other stories, traders can no longer shrug off the big selloff in equity markets this week as inflation has reached a 13 year high, and will also consider the looming drop in demand as consumers will (hopefully) stop filling plastic bags with gasoline. Although the media attention will quickly fade once there are no longer lines of cars outside of gas stations to take pictures of, this situation may have changed perception of the refined fuel industry that many were prepared to cancel just a few weeks ago.  

While it may take another couple of weeks for the supply network to truly get back to “normal” as long as product starts flowing again the outages will quickly start to fade. Colonial had not been running at capacity for more than a year prior to this shutdown, so there’s room for extra supply to start moving up the line as operations ramp back up. Values for space on the main gasoline line (Line 1) went positive this week for the first time in over a year as shippers of all varieties wait in the starting blocks to begin the resupply race.

Just as we turn the page on one transportation bottleneck, another one showed up as the I-40 bridge in Memphis was forced to shut after a crack was discovered, disrupting a busy trucking corridor and promising to make an already tight freight market even worse. No word yet if consumers are lining up around Graceland to hoard Elvis memorabilia due to this temporary outage. The good news is that trucks heading to the Valero refinery in Memphis to help supplement supplies across the Southeast during the Colonial downtime don’t have to cross that bridge, but Arkansas suppliers will struggle with this situation.

The DOE’s weekly report Wednesday gave a dose of reality to those expecting demand to hit pre-COVID levels this summer. Total petroleum demand had its biggest weekly drop since stay at home orders smashed all records last year. While gasoline and diesel estimates did see minor declines, most of the huge drop came in the “other oils” category and doesn’t reflect a drop in consumer activity. 

U.S. refining capacity dropped another 50mb/day last week, as the permanent closures announced last year continue to make their way into the official numbers. The drop from 19 million barrels/day two years ago to 18 million today is the worst decline in capacity in nearly 40 years.

Adding fuel to the 200 proof fire: U.S. ethanol inventories dropped to a four-year-low last week, even though ethanol production ticked up by 25mb/day. There’s still another 50mb/day or so of production that hasn’t returned since the pandemic started.

RIN Values continue their parabolic move. D6 ethanol RINS were trading around $.36/RIN this time last year, hit $.80 to start 2021, were at $1.31 a month ago and then shot to $1.90 yesterday. D4 values are approaching the $2 mark.  With ethanol, grain and refined products appearing to be topping out and the demand for imports looking like it will subside thanks to the Colonial restart, the stage is set for a pullback, but the big question is will it be of the collapse variety that the wild RIN market has seen in years’ past or a more modest correction since the refiner obligation for the year is still unknown? 

The best cure for high prices is high prices: Eight companies – Tesla being one of them – have petitioned to be allowed to generate RINs via their electric vehicle production. While it could be years before congress can even get around to reviewing those proposals, and more years before they’d be implemented if signed into law, it’s a good reminder that at $2/RIN there will be no shortage of new producers trying to take advantage of the RFS program. 

Crying uncle: Carl Icahn’s attempt to takeover Delek via a proxy & media battle has failed and CVR announced it would distribute the Delek shares it had accumulated as a special dividend as a result. 

The last straw? The refinery FKA as Hovensa was forced to shut again this week after yet another disruption that rained oil on the surrounding neighborhoods. With the EPA already investigating the facility for permit violations, it seems like the efforts to restart this facility that was closed in 2012 may ultimately fall flat.   

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk, including all charts for the weekly DOE report.

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Market TalkFriday, Sep 29 2023

The Energy Bulls Are On The Run This Morning, Lead By Heating And Crude Oil Futures

The energy bulls are on the run this morning, lead by heating and crude oil futures. The November HO contract is trading ~7.5 cents per gallon (2.3%) higher while WTI is bumped $1.24 per barrel (1.3%) so far in pre-market trading. Their gasoline counterpart is rallying in sympathy with .3% gains to start the day.

The October contracts for both RBOB and HO expire today, and while trading action looks to be pretty tame so far, it isn’t a rare occurrence to see some big price swings on expiring contracts as traders look to close their positions. It should be noted that the only physical market pricing still pricing their product off of October futures, while the rest of the nation already switched to the November contract over the last week or so.

We’ve now got two named storms in the Atlantic, Philippe and Rina, but both aren’t expected to develop into major storms. While most models show both storms staying out to sea, the European model for weather forecasting shows there is a possibility that Philippe gets close enough to the Northeast to bring rain to the area, but not much else.

The term “$100 oil” is starting to pop up in headlines more and more mostly because WTI settled above the $90 level back on Tuesday, but partially because it’s a nice round number that’s easy to yell in debates or hear about from your father-in-law on the golf course. While the prospect of sustained high energy prices could be harmful to the economy, its important to note that the current short supply environment is voluntary. The spigot could be turned back on at any point, which could topple oil prices in short order.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Sep 28 2023

Gasoline And Crude Oil Futures Are All Trading Between .5% And .8% Lower To Start The Day

The energy complex is sagging this morning with the exception of the distillate benchmark as the prompt month trading higher by about a penny. Gasoline and crude oil futures are all trading between .5% and .8% lower to start the day, pulling back after WTI traded above $95 briefly in the overnight session.

There isn’t much in the way of news this morning with most still citing the expectation for tight global supply, inflation and interest rates, and production cuts by OPEC+.

As reported by the Department of Energy yesterday, refinery runs dropped in all PADDs, except for PADD 3, as we plug along into the fall turnaround season. Crude oil inventories drew down last week, despite lower runs and exports, and increased imports, likely due to the crude oil “adjustment” the EIA uses to reconcile any missing barrels from their calculated estimates.

Diesel remains tight in the US, particularly in PADD 5 (West Coast + Nevada, Arizona) but stockpiles are climbing back towards their 5-year seasonal range. It unsurprising to see a spike in ULSD imports to the region since both Los Angeles and San Francisco spot markets are trading at 50+ cent premiums to the NYMEX. We’ve yet to see such relief on the gasoline side of the barrel, and we likely won’t until the market switches to a higher RVP.

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