RBOB Gasoline Futures Touched Their Lowest Level Of The Year Overnight While ULSD And Crude Oil Prices Hit 3-Month Lows

Market TalkWednesday, Nov 8 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

RBOB gasoline futures touched their lowest level of the year overnight while ULSD and crude oil prices hit 3-month lows. A combination of weak technical factors and demand concerns seem to be driving the move lower, even as stock markets continue their recent run higher on hopes that the interest rate hikes are finished. A stronger dollar is also getting credit for the slide in energy prices by some media outlets, even though the correlation between the asset classes has actually been positive over the past 30 days.

The last time we saw ULSD test its 200-day moving average, just over a month ago, prices bottomed out at $2.83 and rallied 42 cents over the next 10 days. This time, that support layer offered little more than a speed bump on the move lower, and a technical trapdoor seems to have opened once the descending triangle pattern was completed. Longer term, the charts suggest this breakdown could send prices back below $2.50 where we saw them bottom out last spring, although near term the contracts are begging for a corrective bounce after prices dropped 27 cents from Friday’s high.

RBOB seems to be facing a similar test around the $2.15 range today, but so far are managing to hold just above that level, which looks like the pivot point on the charts that will determine whether or not gasoline futures make a run at sub $2 levels by year end. Note that Gulf Coast spot values for gasoline are already trading below the $2 mark, and the big spread between Gulf and East coast values has values for Colonial pipeline space holding north of $.10/gallon.

Buying it, not buying it:  While the big drop in diesel futures is capturing the headlines, 2 of the country’s more volatile spot markets are seeing basis values rally sharply to keep cash prices moving higher this week. Chicago ULSD Basis had gone from worst to first in November with a 50-cent rally from a 30-cent discount to a 20-cent premium following a pair of rumored-but-unconfirmed refinery upsets in Illinois. Not to be outdone however, LA CARB diesel basis jumped to a 30-cent premium this week, following October’s 60 cent collapse. LA CARBOB basis values also rallied, and local allocations have been restricted suggesting a local refinery had a disruption although nothing yet has been reported to the AQMD. Meanwhile, Chevron’s El Segundo refinery in LA was reported to start up its new either-or Hydro treater unit that will allow the facility to produce either traditional or renewable diesel, expanding that plant’s co-processing capacity. 

The API reported a huge build in crude oil stocks last week above 11 million barrels, while distillates increase by 1 million barrels, and gasoline stocks dropped by 400,000. The EIA’s weekly status report will not be released this week due to a system upgrade. You might keep an eye on futures at the 9:30am Eastern time anyway just to see if any trading programs weren’t updated and still try to react to the non-existent report.

Go ahead and take a few weeks off: Accuweather forecasters declared an end to the Atlantic Hurricane season 3 weeks early, saying that the US won’t see any impacts from a storm this year. The season was quite active, and several huge storms formed, but most of the country – and the energy supply network – avoided any major issues thanks to favorable steering currents that kept most of the storms off-shore and out of the Gulf of Mexico.  

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Market Talk Update 11.08.2023

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Market TalkFriday, May 24 2024

Selling Continues In Energy Markets After Thursday's Reversal Rally Ran Out Of Steam In The Afternoon

The selling continues in energy markets after Thursday’s reversal rally ran out of steam in the afternoon, following the lead of U.S. equity markets which had a big sell-off on the day. Prices haven’t yet fallen below the multi-month lows we saw early last week, but we’re just a couple of cents away from those levels, and the potential technical trapdoor that could lead to sharply lower values over the next couple of weeks.

We did see a brief spike in gasoline futures after the settlement Thursday following reports that Colonial had shut down Line 4 due to an IT issue, but those gains were short-lived as the pipeline was restarted without issue a few hours later. Those who remember the chaos of May 2021 after Colonial was hacked are breathing a sigh of relief, particularly on one of the busiest demand days of the year, while others are no doubt disappointed we won’t get to see the rash of fake photos of people filling up plastic bags with gasoline.

OPEC & Friends (AKA the DoC) announced they’re moving June’s policy meeting to a virtual-only affair, which the market is taking as a signal of the status quo being held on output cuts.

Chicago being Chicago: Tuesday’s 60-cent basis spike was officially wiped out by Thursday afternoon, suggesting the short-lived rally was just short covering in an illiquid market rather than a meaningful supply disruption.

RIN values continued their rally this week, touching a 4-month high at 59 cents/RIN for both D4 and D6 values Thursday. If you believe in technical analysis on something like RINs, you can see a “W” pattern formed on the charts, suggesting a run to the 80-cent range is coming if prices can get above 60. If you are more of a fundamentalist, then you’ll probably think this rally is probably more short-term short-covering by producers of RD who have changed their schedule buying back their RIN hedges for volume they’re no longer planning to produce.

NOAA issued its most aggressive Hurricane forecast ever Thursday, joining numerous other groups that think a La Nina pattern and record warm waters will create more and bigger storms this year. With the activity level seeming to be a foregone conclusion at this point, now it’s all about where those storms hit to know if this busy season will be a huge factor in energy supplies like we saw in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2017. With the Houston area already being bombarded by floods and deadly wind this year, the refinery row across the U.S. Gulf Coast seems even more vulnerable than normal to the effects of a storm.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, May 23 2024

Gasoline Prices Have Finally Found A Bid, Trading Up 3 Cents On The Day

Gasoline prices have finally found a bid, trading up 3 cents on the day after coming within a penny and a quarter of the multi-month lows set last week overnight. ULSD prices are also up a couple of cents in the early going after wiping out the gains they made last week. Both contracts are once again threatening a technical breakdown that could push prices another 20-30 cents lower if the current bounce isn’t sustained.

The EIA’s estimate for gasoline demand surged to a 7-month high last week, capping off a 4th straight week of gains that puts total consumption near the top end of the seasonal range after a very sluggish start to the year. AAA estimates that travel this Memorial Day weekend will approach a 20 year high with nearly 44 million people hitting the roads.

The EIA also published a note this morning showing average US gasoline prices are up 1% from last year, accompanied by a chart showing that average prices are down 7 cents/gallon from this time last year. The spread between retail gasoline prices on the West Coast vs the rest of the country continues to grow and is shown to be over $1.20/gallon thanks to Oregon and Washington’s Californication of their energy policies in recent years.

The EIA still seems to be struggling to figure out its accounting methods for crude oil inventories, with the adjustment factor that’s been creating all sorts of confusion the past couple of years flipping from a negative 200,000 barrels/day last week, to a positive 1.4 million barrels/day this week. You could give the EIA compilation crew a break and say that this reflects just how large and complex the US crude oil supply network is, or you could ask how did they suddenly “find” 10-million barrels of oil that they didn’t see last week.

Refiners are cranking up run rates, exceeding the levels we’ve seen this time of year in either of the past 2 years. Those higher run rates are added to the glut of diesel products that’s hanging over the majority of the country, and pushing rack spreads to levels we haven’t seen since the COVID lockdown in several markets.

The export market for US crude and refined products remains very busy with nearly 10 million barrels shipped out of the country every day. Refinery throughput was 16.2 million barrels/day last week, and more than 6 million barrels/day was exported even though gasoline and diesel exports have stagnated this year. The anticipated tick higher in US diesel exports following the rash of Russian refinery attacks has not materialized, which is no doubt contributing to the negative sentiment for diesel prices over the past month. The busy and growing export market for crude and other products also creates an interesting dynamic as we prepare for a busy hurricane season to kick off in a week as any disruption to infrastructure along the Gulf Coast could limit product going out of the country almost as much as it disrupts products flowing inland.

Basis values for RBOB in Chicago dropped 30 cents Wednesday after Tuesday’s 60 cent spike. It’s still unclear what if any impacts the confirmed fire at Exxon’s Joliet refinery, or the rumored upsets at BP’s Whiting facility have had on actual supply in the region, but the quick pullback suggests this is a flash in the pan rather than the start of a prolonged supply shortage.

Exxon reported a leak at its Beaumont TX Chemical plant, but it appears that upset isn’t impacting the operations at its adjacent refinery.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action