Technical Traders Push Late-Week Rally Into Monday Morning

Market TalkMonday, May 8 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

The recovery rally continues for energy futures with ULSD up 22 cents from last Thursday’s low trade, while RBOB is up more than 17 cents, and WTI has earned back nearly $10/barrel. 

Besides the double-edged sword of a healthy April jobs report, there hasn’t been much in the way of news to pin this rally on, so it feels more technical in nature than anything fundamental. Bulls will say that the market overshot to the downside in a fear-driven sell-off setting the stage for a much bigger rally, while bears may argue this is a dead cat bounce, and we’re still set up for more selling ahead. 

Weekly charts suggest that the bear market for distillates is still intact, and we’ll need to see a move back closer to $1.50 to break the downward trend that took futures from $4.68 in October to $2.15 last week. A big part of that decline in futures has been a collapse in the forward curve from extreme backwardation last fall to a gentle contango in the front of the curve today.  

Betting on a collapse: The CFTC’s weekly COT report showed another big influx of speculative funds betting on lower energy prices as of last Tuesday, pushing ULSD to a net-short position for the first time since November 2020. Whether or not we see those new shorts accumulated during the past few weeks get squeezed out by this bounce in prices since that report was released may go a long way in determining whether or not the rally continues. Producers have been reducing their hedges during this sell-off, with diesel hedges dropping to a 3.5 year low in another sign that the big physical players still see upside potential for prices ahead.

Baker Hughes reported a drop of 3 oil rigs, and 4 natural gas rigs in the US last week as producers continue to shy away from spending at current values. The Permian basin accounted for the majority of the decline last week, with a decrease of 5 rigs.

A fire hit Shell’s chemical facility in Deer Park TX Friday, and reignited over the weekend forcing the company to dump excess waste water into the Houston ship channel. So far it doesn’t appear to have impacted operations at the adjacent Deer Park refinery that Shell used to own, and so should be a non-factor on refined product prices.

Nigeria announced it would be commissioning the world’s largest single-train refinery in 2 weeks, which could add another 650mb/day of refining capacity to the Atlantic basin. Then again, many view the “grand opening” as more of a political stunt on behalf of the outgoing president, with actual output not actually expected soon. If true, that would be similar to what we’ve seen at Mexico’s Dos Bocas refinery which was commissioned nearly a year ago, but still isn’t producing refined products.

Today’s interesting read from the FT. Why tax incentives are driving new clean energy commitments.

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

Market Talk Update 05.08.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Dec 8 2023

Wholesale Gasoline Prices Across Most Of The US Reached Their Lowest Levels In 2-Years Thursday

Wholesale gasoline prices across most of the US reached their lowest levels in 2-years Thursday, after the morning recovery rally fizzled in the afternoon. RBOB gasoline futures dipped below the $2 mark briefly, before settling just above it, while cash prices in several major markets dropped below $1.80 for the first time since December 2021, while crude oil and diesel prices reached fresh 6-month lows. 

The bulls are giving it another go this morning, pushing futures up 5-cents for gasoline and 6- cents for diesel, trying to snap the streak of 6-straight daily losses for ULSD, although we’ll need to see products double their early gains to erase the weekly decline.

Energy prices didn’t react much initially to the November Payroll report that estimated 199,000 jobs were added during the month, while the official unemployment rate dipped to 3.7% from 3.9% and the U-6 rate dropped to 7% from 7.2%. Equity futures moved modestly lower immediately following that report as labor market resilience throws cold water on recent hopes for interest rate cuts, but as has often been the case for several months now, energy prices are managing to shrug off the move in stocks. 

Big negative basis values continue to be the theme across the Gulf Coast and Mid-Continent, with USGC, Group 3 and Chicago all trading at 20+ cent discounts to futures for both gasoline and diesel. Those negative values are weighing on refining margins with USGC crack spreads approaching their lowest levels in 2 years, which will almost certainly curtail some refinery run rates through the winter months. East Coast refiners meanwhile are finding themselves in a strong position as shipping bottlenecks keep PADD 1 inventories low and their crack spreads remain in the mid $20/barrel range despite the recent pull back in futures.     

The long-awaited Dangote refinery is reportedly receiving its first cargo of crude oil today.  That new 650mb/day refinery would be the world’s largest single train refinery, but is already years behind schedule, and many still doubt its ability to run anywhere near capacity. We’ve already seen the impact Kuwait’s 615mb/day Al Zour refinery can have on markets across the Atlantic basin, so whether or not the Nigerian facility can ramp up run rates could have a major influence on product prices next year.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Dec 7 2023

West Coast Gasoline Inventories Dropped Sharply Last Week And Are Now Holding Below Their 5-year Seasonal Range

Energy futures are bouncing this morning as buyers are finally stepping in after RBOB futures touched a 2-year low Wednesday, while WTI and ULSD both hit their lowest levels in 5 months. There are headwinds both fundamentally and technically, but so far, the market isn’t acting like a collapse is imminent and as the table below shows this is right about the time when gasoline prices bottomed out the past two years.

Saudi Arabia and Russia released a joint statement this morning, following Vladimir Putin’s trip to the Kingdom, urging OPEC & friends to join their output cut agreement, which takes the risk of a price war that could send prices plunging (as we’ve seen twice in the past decade) off the table for now and seems to be contributing to WTI climbing back above the $70 mark and Brent getting back above $75. 

The DOE reported a healthy bounce back in fuel demand estimates after the annual Thanksgiving holiday hangover, but that wasn’t enough to prevent refined product inventories from continuing to build as refiners continue to return from maintenance and increase run rates. The builds in gasoline inventories particularly suggest it could be a tough winter for some refiners who are already having some challenges clearing their extra barrels. 

The exception on gasoline comes in PADD 5. West Coast gasoline inventories dropped sharply last week and are now holding below their 5-year seasonal range, which is dramatically lower than year-ago levels which set the top end of that range. Those tight stocks help explain why West Coast values are the most expensive in the country by a wide margin and leave little cushion to deal with unplanned maintenance which helps explain the jump in CARBOB basis values this week. 

On the diesel side of the barrel, the recent themes of tight supplies on the East Coast, ample supply in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, and a Wild Card on the west coast since we don’t see Renewable Diesel inventories in the weekly figures continues. Take a look at the PADD 2 gasoline and diesel charts below and it’s easy to understand why we’re seeing cash prices in both Group 3 and Chicago approaching multi-year lows with 20-30 cent discounts to futures becoming the rule rather than the exception.  

The market seemed to shrug off the drop in total US crude oil stocks, as Cushing OK stocks increased for a 7th straight week, and the decline was largely driven by the largest negative adjustment value on record, which went from a positive 1.2 million barrels/day last week to negative 1.4 million barrels/day this week. The EIA has done a lot of work trying to fix the bugs in its report system and to better define what exactly it’s reporting, but clearly there’s still more work to be done. 

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