Refined Products Are Teetering On The Edge Of A Technical Breakdown To Wrap Up Trading For The First Half Of The Year

Market TalkThursday, Jun 30 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Refined products are teetering on the edge of a technical breakdown to wrap up trading for the first half of the year. While two days of heavy selling has the energy complex in a defensive stance, support on the charts has not yet completely given way, meaning it’s still too soon to call a top in prices even though we’ve had a major pullback in the past two weeks. 

RBOB prices are trading 62 cents below their June highs this morning, but still need to break and hold below $3.64 before the technical breakdown can be confirmed. Keep in mind that today’s expiration of the July RBOB contract will knock about 10 cents off of prompt values, which adds to the bearish outlook on the charts.  IF the trend support and June lows break today, don’t be surprised to see prices make a run at $3 later this summer.

ULSD prices are in a similar spot, trading 64 cents below where they were less than 2 weeks ago, but they’ve rallied more than 6 cents from their overnight low at $3.95, giving the bulls a chance to hang on to the trend that’s pushed prices up from $2 in December.  If prices drop and hold below $4, that trend will be officially broken which opens the door to a run at $3.50 in the next few weeks despite the well-documented fundamental issues with distillates.

Yesterday’s long-awaited DOE report, which provided a rare 2 weeks’ worth of data due to system issues seemed to be a catalyst for some of the selling in products, as inventory levels for both gasoline and diesel saw healthy increases in both of the past 2 weeks, while demand estimates slumped well below average levels for this time of year. Those data points also coincide with the latest slide in equity markets as some traders seem to be convinced that high prices may have already started to cure themselves, and the solution to the imbalance in fuel markets will come from a big drop in consumption.

US refiners are running at 95% capacity, but an EIA note suggests that in reality they’re effectively maxed out due to the normal operational constraints on those facilities that are much more complicated to operate than many believe. That report also highlights that US capacity is expected to decline for a third straight year in 2022 with 2 more plants scheduled to be shut down or converted, unless the record high margin environment convinces someone with a few billion dollars to reopen those plants.

Reminder: Today is the last day for July RBN and HON futures contracts, so for those in the NYH and Group 3 markets that haven’t already transitioned to an August price reference will need to watch the RBQ and HOQ contracts for direction today. The backwardation in products is not nearly as extreme as we’ve seen over the past few months, but there will still be a noticeable drop when August futures take the prompt position that will confuse some tomorrow when cash markets don’t follow. 

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk, including all charts from the Weekly DOE Report.

Market Talk Update 6.30.22

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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.

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

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.

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