It’s Been A Volatile Week For Energy And Prices As The Fear Trade Continues

Market TalkThursday, Oct 13 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

It’s been a volatile week for energy and prices as the fear trade continues to manifest itself in various ways as the trio of monthly energy market reports had some mean things to say about demand, and worse to say about supply. 

The November ULSD contract is at it again this morning, rallying more than a dime overnight only to fall 18 cents from those highs and trade sharply lower even before the September CPI report that showed inflation remains stubborn, sending equity markets sharply lower. There was a similar wave of selling in the contract late in Wednesday’s session that knocked the Nov/Dec spread back from a $.3975/gallon high to settle at $.31…only to see the spread rally right back to $.35 this morning. 

While those values are extreme, the premise is simple:  If you have the ability to ship diesel, will it be worth more to you to sell it in Europe – which is desperate for more supply – or the US East Coast, which is becoming so. NYH basis markets continue to try and entice those barrels, reaching a 53 cent/gallon premium to November futures for prompt barrels, creating a spread of nearly 90 cents between now and December.  With those types of price moves in the front half of the month, all bets are off for what prices could do as the November contract approaches expiration, and price swings like we saw back in the spring cannot be ruled out.

The EIA’s monthly report (STEO) had all sorts of bad news, lowering both supply estimates due to OPEC’s announcement and lackluster production in the US, and demand due to large declines in GDP expectations globally next year.  Perhaps worst of all however is that the report called for a colder than average winter and noted how that will translate for much larger heating bills for consumers due to tight natural gas and diesel supplies. 

On the bright side, the report did do a nice job answering the political theatre questions posed by California’s elected appointed chair of the state’s energy commission on why gasoline prices were so high.  See the note below.

The IEA sounded even more distraught in their monthly oil market report, citing “The relentless deterioration of the economy…” for a large reduction in their global demand estimates while calling what we’re experiencing “the worst global energy crisis in history” . The report also had a harsh reminder that Europe’s actual embargoes on Russian supplies haven’t taken full effect yet and the continent still hasn’t found a replacement option for roughly half of that fuel. 

Right on cue: Europe’s largest refinery had a major malfunction overnight, which will only compound the issues stemming the ongoing refinery strikes in France and the race to stock up supplies for winter with options ranging between bad and worse. 

The API reported a large draw in US diesel inventories of more than 4.5 million barrels last week while gasoline stocks increased by 2 million barrels, and crude inventories added 7 million barrels, thanks to another 8 million barrels being released from the SPR.  The DOE/EIA’s weekly report is due out at 10am central. Why the report is delayed 24.5 hours after a federal holiday is as much of a mystery as the latest federal holiday itself.

Tropical Storm Karl is making its course reversal in the Gulf of Mexico and heading away from US oil production and refining assets. While US supply is dodging another bullet, the storm is targeting the recently commissioned, though still not operational, Olmeca refinery near the port of Dos Bocas. While this storm probably won’t get strong enough to do significant damage, it could continue to delay efforts to finish the refinery that is already far behind schedule and billions over budget. 

Federal investigators reported that a corroded pipe was to blame for the explosion and fire that destroyed the PES refinery, way back in 2019 before shutting down refineries went mainstream. 

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

Market Talk Update 10.13.22

News & Views

View All
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