Risk Is Back In Style This Week - Refined Products Up Alongside Stock Market's Global Surge

Market TalkTuesday, Oct 4 2022
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Risk is back in style this week as refined products are up 16-20 cents to start the week alongside a surge in stock markets around the world.  After months of going their own way, the correlation between energy futures and the S&P 500 has approached the 80% mark recently, indicating that we’re entering another phase of being in a “risk on” or “risk off” environment with assets of many sorts heading the same direction daily depending on the mood, which often is driven by expectations for central bank easing (risk on) or tightening (risk off).

Rumors of an OPEC production cut ahead of tomorrow’s meeting are getting much of the credit for the run-up in energy prices, even though the cartel’s actual output has been lagging far behind targets this year.  That sets up a scenario where the member countries could increase actual output, while still lowering their official quotas, and laugh all the way to the bank if the market is in fact rallying because of those headlines.

$3.49 is looking like pivotal resistance for the ULSD contract this week, both because it ended up as the high water mark on two failed rallies in each of the past two weeks; and because it now represents the 200-day moving average.   IF diesel prices are able to break through that resistance there’s an argument to be made that a “W” pattern is forming on the charts that could end up meaning prices rally back to $4.50 this winter.  Cash markets are signaling that physical supplies are dwindling, with USGC values surging more than 23 cents Monday, pushing basis values to an unusual 8-cent premium over futures.  While those levels are still cheap in comparison to the West Coast (trading 50 cents over) or NYH Values (16 cents over) they’re a clear signal that backwardation is back, and significantly higher prices may soon follow. 

California gasoline prices started their return trip to reality Monday after the Air Resource Board and the major pipeline systems in the state confirmed an early switch to winter-grade gasoline products, and one of the refineries experiencing disruptions over the past few weeks was reported to be back online. Proving they have a keen grasp of the situation, CARB actually mentioned Hurricane Ian as one of the main issues causing the state’s prices to be so high.   Prompt values for CARBOB were valued just over a $2/gallon premium Monday night, down some 40 cents from last week’s highs, but still $1.30 or more above the next highest price outside of the West Coast.    

While the mystery of who sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines remains, a plausible theory is that Russia now stands to benefit because it can declare Force Majeure on those lines and not face financial penalties for not honoring its contracts, as it did when they decided to shut the pipelines down in retaliation for Europe’s backing of Ukraine. 

A WSJ article Monday noted how China is taking advantage of its economic slowdown to reroute US natural gas to Europe.  Maybe they will end up sending Russian natural gas there as well.

The NHC is tracking two more storm systems this week, both of which have good odds of being named, but neither one looks like it will threaten the US. 

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Martket Talk Update 10-04-22

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkTuesday, Mar 28 2023

Energy Markets Are Holding Steady To Start Tuesday’s Session

Energy markets are holding steady to start Tuesday’s session after oil prices had their biggest rally of the year Monday. 

Reports that Iraq had halted shipments on the Ceyhan pipeline through Turkey, which removed 400,000 barrels/day of exports from the world market temporarily were given much of the credit for the big move higher. The rally in oil came just a week after large speculators reduced their bets on higher prices to the lowest level in 7 years, providing yet another reminder of why the moves made by hedge funds is often seen as a contrary indicator of market direction. 

Refined products touched a 2-week high overnight before pulling back to modest losses this morning but remain in the middle of their March trading range, which sets the stage for more choppy back and forth action as markets around the world search for direction and worry about what’s coming next.

California approved the bill that will create a new committee within the state’s energy commission that will oversee oil refiners and potentially levy penalties on them if they’re deemed to be making too much money on consumers. The state has already had a handful of refineries close down in the past 6 years, with another scheduled to close and convert to an RD facility in early 2024, and there’s no doubt that this new law may be yet another reason for the remaining facilities to consider closing their doors as well, which many will see as a victory.    

The Dallas FED’s manufacturing Survey showed a small increase in production in March, after February showed a contraction for the first time since the COVID lockdowns. The business outlook remains mixed however as many noted uncertainties around the banking situation, along with continued supply chain and labor challenges as factors hindering growth. 

New competitor for feedstocks? A moose breached the security gates at the refinery in Sinclair Wyoming Monday. No word if the animal was just lost, or searching for the soybeans that are now being used to make renewable diesel at that facility.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkMonday, Mar 27 2023

Energy Futures Rebound to Start the Week

Energy futures are bouncing to start the week, following through on a recovery rally that saw Friday’s early losses wiped out and salvaged weekly gains.

Money managers have been bailing out of their bets on higher energy prices in recent weeks, and as the CFTC’s data is finally catching up after 2 months of delays, we can finally see those figures the same week they’re compiled. The past two weeks alone have seen a reduction of more than 100,000 WTI contracts held by large speculators, bringing the total net length to the lowest level since January 2016. 

The COT data also shows large reductions in producer hedging during this latest selloff in a sign that the industry may believe that prices won’t stay this low for long.  

A WSJ article over the weekend highlighted how the options traders may have exacerbated the push lower over the past two months and could help spark a recovery rally later in the year.

Baker Hughes reported an increase of 4 oil rigs drilling in the US last week, snapping a 5-week slide that had pushed drilling activity to a 9-month low.  The Permian basin accounted for 3 of the 4 rigs added last week.

Iraq won a 9-year lawsuit against Kurdish oil shipments, and that result has temporarily halted shipments of oil from the autonomous Kurdish region via the Turkish Ceyhan pipeline system.

Saudi Arabia announced an expansion of its partnership with China, increasing its multi-billion investment in new refining infrastructure in the world’s largest oil buyer. We’ve already seen multiple new refinery projects come online in both countries over the past two years, and this new agreement will continue the trend of additional capacity in the eastern hemisphere while the west continues to see declines.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Mar 24 2023

Correlation Confusion Between Oil, Stock, And Currency Markets; US Drops Plan to Replenish SPR

Oil prices are leading a slide lower to end the week after the US government walked back plans to buy oil since it’s dropped below $70, and the latest ripples in the banking crisis push stocks lower and the dollar sharply higher after it touched a 2-month low Thursday. 

Even though the correlation between energy prices and stocks or currencies has been weak lately, or even opposite of normal in the case of the dollar, there still seems to be more influence lately as the fear trade has funds flowing back and forth between markets depending on whether or not risk-taking is in style that day. 

The US Energy Secretary told congress that the agency won’t be refilling the SPR this year, despite previous pledges by the White House to buy oil when it dropped to $70, since the agency is still working through congressionally mandates sales of oil from the reserve.  That news seems to be contributing to the downside in WTI and Brent prices as traders hoping to front run the DOE are now going to have to wait a while longer to do so.

Even though ULSD prices are up 17 cents from the lows set last week, they’re still on the verge of their lowest weekly settlement since January of 2022 should prices end the day near current levels. Given that this week’s recovery rally failed to take out the highs seen in previous weeks, charts continue to look bearish for distillates. Another run at $2.50 looks more likely and a break below that level, when the May contract takes the prompt position in another week, may be a foregone conclusion.

As has been the case for most of March, RBOB look as bad as ULSD on the charts, although that certainly isn’t helping so far today with gasoline futures outpacing the losses in diesel.  Unless we see RBOB end the day down a dime or more (it’s down a nickel currently) the weekly trend will still be higher, and the charts will still be giving favor to another push towards $2.80-$3 this spring.

The LA spot market saw a healthy bounce in gasoline basis values Thursday following multiple refinery upsets in the area reported to local regulators. Meanwhile, the California Governors new plan to create an oversight committee to prevent price gouging – a major change from earlier proposals to levy a new tax on oil producers and refiners – passed through the Senate on Thursday. If this new bill is fully passed, it will allow the Governor to appoint that committee himself. A 1,000-page prediction of how that plan will work is available for less than $10 on Amazon.

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