Petroleum Futures Soared To Fresh 7 Year Highs

Market TalkMonday, Oct 11 2021
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Petroleum futures soared to fresh 7 year highs overnight as the global energy supply crunch looked like it might get worse before it gets better, leaving us in this strange new world where “alternative” fuels come from oil and natural gas. Now that last week’s high trades have been taken out, there’s nothing on the charts to prevent crude making a run at the $90 mark near term, which would add around another 20 cents to refined products. 

It seems just about everywhere you look these days, there’s another story of how fossil fuels are becoming both the cause and effect of climate change. Whether it’s flooding in China that’s hampering coal production, or drought in Brazil that’s creating a need for supplemental energy supplies, or even the heavy rains that have damaged multiple pipelines across the US in recent weeks, petroleum supplies are seen as both the problem, and (near term at least) the solution.

Kinder Morgan’s SE (plantation) pipeline was scheduled to restart over the weekend, after being closed for more than a week to fix a leak. The shutdown of the 2nd largest Gulf Coast to East Coast pipeline system didn’t stir too much action outside of local terminal markets that saw tight allocations, as Colonial’s main lines remain below capacity. Meanwhile, KM announced it had completed work on its “Pennsylvania Access” project that will help more product flow from Midwestern refineries to PA and NY.

Money Managers continue to add to net length in energy contracts, with the CFTC reporting the large speculator category seeing heavy short covering (bets on lower prices getting squeezed out) and new length added last week.  Read here why Reuters columnist John Kemp thinks the hedge fund trade is crowded, and risking a reversal, even though the net length held by money managers is still far below 2017-2018 levels. Something else you may notice in the Commitment of Traders charts below, the “Other reportable” category of trader that made up smaller speculative traders saw a mass exodus during the chaotic trading in early 2020 (read how Chinese retail investors got burned by bad bets on WTI for a good reason why that is).  If you start seeing more headlines about buying oil as a hedge against the global energy shortage – or other types of inflation – we could see an influx of those funds once again. Given the relatively small size of the energy futures arena compared to equity and currency markets, movements like that can have a huge impact on prices.   

Baker Hughes reported a net increase of 5 oil rigs drilling in the US last week, 3 of which were added in the Permian basin. We’re seeing rack spreads in West Texas markets reach their highest levels since the SNOVID refinery shutdowns earlier in the year as the steady increase in drilling activity has created a steady increase in diesel demand.

There are two new tropical systems near the eastern edge of the Caribbean to keep an eye on this week, although neither one is given high odds of development by the NHC. 

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

Market Talk Update 10.11.21

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Market TalkFriday, Sep 22 2023

Energy Markets Are Ticking Modestly Higher This Morning But Remain Well Off The Highs Set Early Thursday

Energy markets are ticking modestly higher this morning but remain well off the highs set early Thursday following the reports that Russia was temporarily banning most refined product exports.  

The law of government intervention and unintended consequences: Russian officials claim the export ban is an effort to promote market stability, and right on cue, its gasoline prices plummeted a not-so-stable 10% following the news. 

There’s a saying that bull markets don’t end due to bad news, they end when the market stops rallying on good news. It’s possible that if ULSD futures continue lower after failing to sustain yesterday’s rally, or this morning’s, we could be seeing the end of the most recent bull run. That said, it’s still much too soon to call the top here, particularly with a steepening forward curve leaving prices susceptible to a squeeze, and the winter-demand months still ahead of us. Short term we need to see ULSD hold above $3.30 next week to avoid breaking its weekly trend line.

The sell-off in RIN values picked up steam Thursday, with 2023 D4 and D6 values dropping to the $1.02 range before finally finding a bid later in the session and ending the day around $1.07.   

Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to be named today, before making landfall on the North Carolina coast tomorrow. This isn’t a major storm, and there aren’t any refineries in its path, so it’s unlikely to do much to disrupt supply, but it will dump heavy rain several of the major East Coast markets so it will likely hamper demand through the weekend. The other storm system being tracked by the NHC is now given 90% odds of being named next week, but its predicted path has shifted north as it moves across the Atlantic, which suggests it is more likely to stay out to sea like Nigel did than threaten either the Gulf or East Coasts.

Exxon reported an upset at its Baytown refinery that’s been ongoing for the past 24 hours.  It’s still unclear which units are impacted by this event, and whether or not it will have meaningful impacts on output. Total’s Pt Arthur facility also reported an upset yesterday, but that event lasted less than 90 minutes. Like most upsets in the region recently, traders seem to be shrugging off the news with gulf coast basis values not moving much. 

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Sep 21 2023

The Yo-Yo Action In Diesel Continues With Each Day Alternating Between Big Gains And Big Losses So Far This Week

The yo-yo action in diesel continues with each day alternating between big gains and big losses so far this week. Today’s 11-cent rally is being blamed on reports that Russia is cutting exports of refined products effective immediately. It’s been a while since Russian sabre rattling has driven a noticeable price move in energy futures, after being a common occurrence at the start of the war. Just like tweets from our prior President however, these types of announcements seem to have a diminishing shelf-life, particularly given how the industry has adapted to the change in Russian export flows, so don’t be surprised if the early rally loses steam later today. 

The announcement also helped gasoline prices rally 5-cents off of their overnight lows, and cling to modest gains just above a penny in the early going. Before the announcement, RBOB futures were poised for a 5th straight day of losses.

IF the export ban lasts, that would be good news for US refiners that have seen their buyers in south American countries – most notably Brazil – reduce their purchases in favor of discounted barrels from Russia this year

US refinery runs dropped below year-ago levels for the first time in 6 weeks, with PADDS 1, 2 and 3 all seeing large declines at the start of a busy fall maintenance schedule.  Oil inventories continued to decline, despite the drop-in run rates and a big increase in the adjustment factor as oil exports surged back north of 5 million barrels/day. Keep in mind that as recently as 2011 the US only produced 5 million barrels of oil every day, and exports were mostly banned until 2016, so to be sending this many barrels overseas is truly a game changer for the global market.

Chicken or the egg?  Cushing OK oil stocks dropped below year-ago levels for the first time since January last week, which may be caused by the return of backwardation incenting shippers to lower inventory levels, the shift to new WTI Midland and Houston contracts as the export market expands.  Of course, the low inventory levels are also blamed for causing the backwardation in crude oil prices, and the shift to an export market may keep inventories at the NYMEX hub lower for longer as fewer shippers want to go inland with their barrels.

Refined product inventories remain near the bottom end of their seasonal ranges, with a healthy recovery in demand after last week’s holiday hangover helping keep stocks in check.  The biggest mover was a large jump in PADD 5 distillates, which was foreshadowed by the 30 cent drop in basis values the day prior.   The big story for gasoline on the week was a surge in exports to the highest level of the year, which is helping keep inventories relatively tight despite the driving season having ended 2 weeks ago.

As expected, the FED held rates yesterday, but the open market committee also included a note that they expected to raise rates one more time this year, which sparked a selloff in equity markets that trickled over into energy prices Wednesday afternoon. The correlation between energy and equities has been non-existent of late, and already this morning we’re seeing products up despite equities pointing lower, so it doesn’t look like the FOMC announcement will have a lasting impact on fuel prices this time around.

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