Refined Products Bounce Keeping Prices Well Above Their 6-Week-Old Trend Lines

Market TalkThursday, Jan 26 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Refined products are bouncing back this morning after 2 days of selling as a bit of economic optimism appears to be creeping back into the market. The bounce keeps prices well above their 6-week-old trend lines and keeps the bulls in position to push prices substantially higher in the coming weeks and makes the past two days of selling look like nothing more than profit taking to cure an overbought market.

Stocks and energy prices reacted positively to the 4th quarter US GDP estimates this morning that showed the economy continued to expand, albeit at a slower pace than in Q3, and that the consumer continues to be resilient with purchases and savings despite so much consternation about a looming recession.  International travel was noted as a highlight in this report, and could be a major theme this year as China has reopened its doors while many other countries get closer to business as usual and release the pent up demand of 3 years of COVID travel restrictions.

Despite surging exports, light imports, and no more SPR releases, crude oil inventories continue to build in the US as refinery runs continue to be far below planned levels. The recovery from the Christmas blizzard and a handful of other events in the past few weeks continues, but we’re still seeing utilization that’s several percentage points below where it would be otherwise. These lower run rates on top of already low inventory levels would be much more painful if demand wasn’t still very sluggish, and adding another anecdote for the half that think the US economy is already in a recession

Then again, it’s also January which is typically the worst demand month of the year, and we’re in the midst of a parade of winter storms sweeping the entire country and keeping many vehicles off the road, so if we do see a normal demand rebound heading into the spring months, supply may get very tight again in short order.

Valero reported another banner quarter in Q4 this morning, and ended the year with net income of $11.8 billion, compared to $1.3 billion in 2021. The company’s refineries operated at 97% during the quarter, which was the highest since 2018 as they, along with all the others that were able, maximized output to try and help alleviate chronic inventory shortages and take advantage of the record margins those shortages bring. The report also noted that the expansion of their newest Diamond Green renewable diesel facility was completed during the quarter, and the coker project at the Port Arthur refinery which will expand capacity is due to be completed in Q2. 

Total reported Wednesday that its refinery outside Houston was knocked offline during Tuesday’s severe weather event.  The report suggests the plants boilers were restarted early Wednesday morning, suggesting that the facility avoided any major damage. That facility is just a couple of miles from the Deer Park refinery that was also knocked offline during the storm and restarted a few hours later. Those are the only two facilities reporting so far, while several others in the region have said their operations remain stable, so it seems we’ve avoided a major disruption from that system.

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Market Talk Update 01.26.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Jul 17 2024

Energy Markets Are Trying To Find A Price Floor After Gasoline And Crude Oil Staged A Healthy Bounce To Minimize The Heavy Losses

Energy markets are trying to find a price floor after gasoline and crude oil staged a healthy bounce to minimize the heavy losses we saw early in Tuesday’s session. WTI is leading the move higher early Wednesday, up nearly $.90/barrel in the early going, while RBOB prices are up just under a penny.

Diesel continues to look like the weak link in the energy chain both technically and fundamentally. Tuesday the API reported a 4.9 million barrel build in diesel stocks, while gasoline inventories were only up 365,000 barrels, and crude oil stocks declined by more than 4.4 million barrels. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning and it’s likely we’ll see a reduction in oil output and PADD 3 refining runs thanks to shut ins ahead of Hurricane Beryl, but otherwise the storm appears to be a relative non-issue with only 1 notable refining hiccup, that wasn’t even as bad as a midwestern Thunderstorm.

Chicago basis values rallied Tuesday after reports that Exxon had shut down the 250mb/day Joliet refinery following severe storms that knocked out power to the area Sunday. RBOB differentials surged nearly 9 cents on the day, while diesel diffs jumped more than a nickel. With 3 large refineries in close proximity, the Chicago cash market is notoriously volatile if any of those facilities has an upset. Back in May there was a one-day spike in gasoline basis of more than 50 cents/gallon after Joliet had an operating upset so don’t be surprised if there are bigger swings this week if the facility doesn’t come back online quickly.

Moving in the opposite direction, California basis values are heading the opposite direction with the transition to August scheduling pressuring CARBOB differentials in LA and San Francisco to their biggest discounts to prompt RBOB futures in more than 18 months. Gasoline imports into PADD 5 have held well above average levels over the past 2 months, which has more than offset the loss of the P66 Rodeo refinery’s output after it completed its conversion to RD production, in another sign of how growing refining capacity in China and other Asian countries may become more influential to the US. California regulators may also pat themselves on the back that their new plans to force refineries to report their gross profit monthly, in addition to the rules requiring all bulk trades in the state be reported must be driving the lower gasoline differentials, assuming they figure out what a basis differential is.

Meanwhile, California’s Carbon Allowance values have tumbled to their lowest levels in a year after a CARB presentation last week suggested the agency would be delaying long-anticipated tightening of the Cap and Trade program until 2026.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkTuesday, Jul 16 2024

The Sell-Off In Energy Markets Continues, With Refined Products Reaching Their Lowest Levels In A Month Early In Tuesday’s Session

The sell-off in energy markets continues, with refined products reaching their lowest levels in a month early in Tuesday’s session. Reports of slowing growth in China, the world’s largest oil purchaser, is getting much of the credit for the slide in prices so far this week, although that doesn’t do much to explain why refined products are outpacing the drop in crude.

ULSD futures are leading the early move lower, trading down a nickel on the day, and marking a 19 cent drop since July 4th. There’s not much in the way of technical support for ULSD, so don’t be surprised if this sell-off continues to pick up steam.

With today’s slide, RBOB futures are down 17 cents from where they were trading on July 4th, and are just a couple of cents from testing their 200-day moving average. Should that support break, it looks like there’s a good chance to test the June lows around $2.29.

Physical markets are not offering any strength to the futures market with all 6 of the major cash markets for diesel across the US trading at a discount to ULSD futures, while only 1 gasoline market is trading at a premium to RBOB futures. That combination of weakness in futures and cash markets is going to be troubling for refiners who are seeing margins reduce during what is traditionally a strong time of year.

The EIA highlighted the energy trade between the US and Mexico in a report Monday, showing that despite so many claims of energy independence from Mexican officials, the actual amount of refined fuels and natural gas bought from the US continues to increase. That’s good news for many US refiners who have become more dependent on Mexican purchases to find a home for their output.

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