Product Prices Pushed The Petroleum Complex Into Official Bear Market Territory On Tuesday
Another double digit drop in refined product prices pushed the petroleum complex into official Bear Market territory Tuesday, ending an 18 month price rally. December trading started on a much more optimistic note with product rallying 10 cents in lockstep with a big bounce in US equity markets overnight, but have already cut those gains in half, leaving the complex vulnerable to more big swings.
Refined product spot prices are down more than 30 cents so far this week as cash markets catch up with the Black Friday meltdown, and ethanol prices decided to join in on the fun Tuesday plummeting 50 cents in the New York harbor and 40 cents in other spots.
The two agencies with strongest potential influence on energy prices are OPEC and the US Federal Reserve. This week will feature both as comments from the Fed chair Tuesday helped spur another broad based sell-off that could be classified as a “Taper Tantrum” by the big money funds that expect their big money to be free and easily printed.
OPEC is now taking center stage as their technical committee meets today and then the full group meeting tomorrow, with several reports guessing the cartel may use Omicron as an excuse to pause their plans to steadily increase oil output. With several producers already struggling to meet their quotas, that change in the stated plan could help prop up oil prices, even if in real terms it doesn’t mean any less oil coming to market, and would also send a signal to the US & other nations that they shouldn’t bring their SPR knife to the oil price gun fight.
The API reported builds in refined products last week of 2 million barrels of gasoline and 800,000 barrels of diesel, while oil stocks had a small decrease of roughly 750,000 barrels. That report seemed to be largely shrugged off based on the price action Tuesday afternoon through the overnight session, as the larger macro issues continue to be driving the Risk-off/Risk On action across asset classes. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning. While that report may have less impact than normal on futures, watch the refinery runs by PADD to see how plants are progressing through maintenance to get a feel for how quickly some of the supply shortages in pockets around the country may heal.
Science getting in the way again: California’s Air Resource Board published a study this week that shows Bio Diesel and Renewable diesel blends are actually creating more NOx pollution than “traditional” CARB #2 diesel in modern engines. The Next Steps listed by the Agency are to take several months to ask more questions, so it’s unlikely we’ll see any changes to the state’s current regulations any time soon, but it will create new challenges for the state’s biodiesel blenders.