It’s A Soft Start For Energy Markets Wednesday As Traders Await The Weekly Inventory Report, And The FOMC

Market TalkWednesday, Sep 20 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

It’s a soft start for energy markets Wednesday as traders await the weekly inventory report, and the FOMC. 

Whiplash is the theme of the week for diesel prices that are trading down 7-cents this morning, after a 10-cent rally Tuesday, that followed a 10-cent decline Monday. The weekly trend-line that helped propel values up more than $1/gallon since July 4th is still barely intact, and may prove pivotal in the weeks ahead, with a slide back below $3 looking likely if it breaks down, while a run towards $4 by year end can’t be ruled out if it holds. 

Gasoline prices are trading lower for a 4th straight session and have given up 15 cents/gallon over that stretch. While gasoline futures are looking weak, shippers are paying up to move gasoline north on Colonial again, with line space premiums for Line 1 trading above 4- cents/gallon Wednesday. The transition to winter grades that increases output at Gulf Coast facilities, and the maintenance at two refineries on the East Coast both seem to be contributing to the surge in values. 

Another bubble burst? Basis values for gasoline and diesel in LA spot markets dropped 30 cents Tuesday as sellers emerged on both sides of the barrel for the first time in nearly a month. 

The API reported another large draw in crude oil inventories last week, with total US inventories declining more than 5 million barrels on the week, while Cushing OK stocks dropped more than 2 million barrels. It was a mixed bag for refined products with gasoline seeing a small increase of around 730,000 barrels, while diesel stocks dropped by 250,000.  The EIA’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning. 

Reuters reported Wednesday that the surge in WTI prices has closed the arbitrage window to Europe, while Bloomberg is reporting that a French shipper has been driving the bidding for physical prices along the Gulf Coast that’s compounded the jump in futures prices. 

RIN values continue their slide this week, trading in the $1.15 range for D4 and D6 values, which marks an 18-month low for ethanol (D6) RINs, and a 30-month low for the Bio/RD (D4) values. The drop in RINs spells more bad news for many RD producers that are also struggling with a sharp drop in California LCFS values, and shipping delays in the Panama Canal. Ethanol prices have also dropped sharply this week as concerns over a supply disruption following last week’s explosion at the country’s largest ethanol plant are subsiding.

We dodged a couple of major storms in the past week with Lee’s late shifts to the east minimizing the damage along the East Coast, and Nigel’s eastward path making it a non-issue. The NHC is tracking 2 other potential systems this week, one looks to be a rain maker over the Southeast US that’s unlikely to develop, while the other is given 70% odds of being named as it moves across the Atlantic and is in the zone that could make it a threat to either the Gulf or East Coasts to start October.

Pretty much nobody expects to see the FED raise rates again today, with the CME’s Fedwatch tool showing 99% odds that rates hold at current levels, while the market is fairly split on whether or not we’ll see another increase at either of the two remaining FOMC meetings this year. 

Motiva’s Pt Arthur TX refinery, the largest in the US, reported an upset at an FCC unit Tuesday. Gulf coast spot markets didn’t seem to flinch on the news, suggesting the impact on operations is minimal.

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Market Talk Update 09.20.2023

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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