It’s Been A Busy And Choppy Start To Trading In August As The Energy Complex Tests The Lower End Of Its Summer Trading Range

Market TalkMonday, Aug 1 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

It’s been a busy and choppy start to trading in August as the energy complex tests the lower end of its summer trading range, creating some big swings in the early going. RBOB gasoline was down almost a dime around 7am central, but has cut those gains in half in 30 minutes. ULSD prices were down 8 cents at 7, rallied to down 3 as of 7:30, then were down almost 7 again by 7:45.  

RBOB faces an immediate technical test to start the month, with the contract roll bringing prices from a high of $3.71 on Friday, to a test of $3 today. The $3 range has 3 layers of chart support, marking the July low of $3.02, the psychologically meaningful $3 mark, and the 200 day moving average at $2.99.  IF these layers of support break, it looks like we’ll see another 15 cent drop in short order, with a move into the $2.70s possible. Speaking of which, the September RBOB contract is the last summer-spec contract of the year, and the October contract is already trading in the high $2.70s this morning thanks to the combination of steep backwardation and RVP transition. Cash markets are adding to the bearish feel for gasoline prices, with several regional values already around $2.65 this morning, which will mean retail prices below $3.50 coming soon for many consumers if the trend holds.

WTI is also facing another test at its 200 day moving average, after bouncing off of that level in 6 of the past 8 trading sessions. If US oil prices don’t find a way to rally soon (as in this week) it looks like we’ll be talking about oil in the $80s some-time in August.

While gasoline and oil prices look weak on the charts, ULSD is looking relatively strong, with a more neutral outlook. The roll from the expiring August contract did move prompt prices into the lower half of the summer trading range, but there’s still more than 12 cents to fall before chart support gets tested for diesel.

The CFTC’s commitment of traders report shows that money managers continue to have mixed feelings on energy price bets, with the only consistency seen in recent weeks being a lack of open interest outstanding. The open interest for refined products is holding at its lowest levels since 2015, which was when the US fracking boom helped petroleum prices go bust.  Here too ULSD looks the most bullish with new speculative longs entering the market last week, while other funds covered short positions, leading to large increase in net length held by money managers on the week.

Baker Hughes reported a net increase of 6 oil rigs and 2 natural gas rigs last week, ending a 2 week lull in new drilling activity. Texas led the increase with 6 new rigs added last week, 2 each in the Permian and Eagle Ford plays. The total US oil rig count surpassed 600 for the first time since April of 2020 (you might remember this as the month when WTI traded negative) and leaves the possibility that the rig count could reach pre-pandemic levels by year end.

It’s been almost a month since we saw a named storm in the Atlantic, and the NHC suggests this will be another quiet week. Despite the calm waters, forecasters are still calling for an above average hurricane season, and it’s not just the Gulf Coast refining complex that seems extra vulnerable this year:  A WSJ article highlights how a shortage of transformers could spell trouble for turning the lights back on after a storm hits. 

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

Market Talk Update 08.01.2022

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Market TalkFriday, Apr 19 2024

Gasoline Futures Are Leading The Way Lower This Morning

It was a volatile night for markets around the world as Israel reportedly launched a direct strike against Iran. Many global markets, from equities to currencies to commodities saw big swings as traders initially braced for the worst, then reversed course rapidly once Iran indicated that it was not planning to retaliate. Refined products spiked following the initial reports, with ULSD futures up 11 cents and RBOB up 7 at their highest, only to reverse to losses this morning. Equities saw similar moves in reverse overnight as a flight to safety trade soon gave way to a sigh of relief recovery.

Gasoline futures are leading the way lower this morning, adding to the argument that we may have seen the spring peak in prices a week ago, unless some actual disruption pops up in the coming weeks. The longer term up-trend is still intact and sets a near-term target to the downside roughly 9 cents below current values. ULSD meanwhile is just a nickel away from setting new lows for the year, which would open up a technical trap door for prices to slide another 30 cents as we move towards summer.

A Reuters report this morning suggests that the EPA is ready to announce another temporary waiver of smog-prevention rules that will allow E15 sales this summer as political winds continue to prove stronger than any legitimate environmental agenda. RIN prices had stabilized around 45 cents/RIN for D4 and D6 credits this week and are already trading a penny lower following this report.

Delek’s Big Spring refinery reported maintenance on an FCC unit that would require 3 days of work. That facility, along with several others across TX, have had numerous issues ever since the deep freeze events in 2021 and 2024 did widespread damage. Meanwhile, overnight storms across the Midwest caused at least one terminal to be knocked offline in the St. Louis area, but so far no refinery upsets have been reported.

Meanwhile, in Russia: Refiners are apparently installing anti-drone nets to protect their facilities since apparently their sling shots stopped working.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Apr 18 2024

The Sell-Off Continues In Energy Markets, RBOB Gasoline Futures Are Now Down Nearly 13 Cents In The Past Two Days

The sell-off continues in energy markets. RBOB gasoline futures are now down nearly 13 cents in the past two days, and have fallen 16 cents from a week ago, leading to questions about whether or not we’ve seen the seasonal peak in gasoline prices. ULSD futures are also coming under heavy selling pressure, dropping 15 cents so far this week and are trading at their lowest level since January 3rd.

The drop on the weekly chart certainly takes away the upside momentum for gasoline that still favored a run at the $3 mark just a few days ago, but the longer term up-trend that helped propel a 90-cent increase since mid-December is still intact as long as prices stay above the $2.60 mark for the next week. If diesel prices break below $2.50 there’s a strong possibility that we see another 30 cent price drop in the next couple of weeks.

An unwind of long positions after Iran’s attack on Israel was swatted out of the sky without further escalation (so far anyway) and reports that Russia is resuming refinery runs, both seeming to be contributing factors to the sharp pullback in prices.

Along with the uncertainty about where the next attacks may or may not occur, and if they will have any meaningful impact on supply, come no shortage of rumors about potential SPR releases or how OPEC might respond to the crisis. The only thing that’s certain at this point, is that there’s much more spare capacity for both oil production and refining now than there was 2 years ago, which seems to be helping keep a lid on prices despite so much tension.

In addition, for those that remember the chaos in oil markets 50 years ago sparked by similar events in and around Israel, read this note from the NY Times on why things are different this time around.

The DOE’s weekly status report was largely ignored in the midst of the big sell-off Wednesday, with few noteworthy items in the report.

Diesel demand did see a strong recovery from last week’s throwaway figure that proves the vulnerability of the weekly estimates, particularly the week after a holiday, but that did nothing to slow the sell-off in ULSD futures.

Perhaps the biggest next of the week was that the agency made its seasonal changes to nameplate refining capacity as facilities emerged from their spring maintenance.

PADD 2 saw an increase of 36mb/day, and PADD 3 increased by 72mb/day, both of which set new records for regional capacity. PADD 5 meanwhile continued its slow-motion decline, losing another 30mb/day of capacity as California’s war of attrition against the industry continues. It’s worth noting that given the glacial pace of EIA reporting on the topic, we’re unlikely to see the impact of Rodeo’s conversion in the official numbers until next year.

Speaking of which, if you believe the PADD 5 diesel chart below that suggests the region is running out of the fuel, when in fact there’s an excess in most local markets, you haven’t been paying attention. Gasoline inventories on the West Coast however do appear consistent with reality as less refining output and a lack of resupply options both continue to create headaches for suppliers.

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