The First 4.5 Trading Days Of March Have Smashed Records For Daily Price Swings And Increases

Market TalkMonday, Mar 7 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Good news: gasoline prices are down 28 cents and diesel prices are down 33 cents from where they were trading last night. 

Bad news: both contracts reached record highs last night in the first few minutes of trading, and are still showing large gains from Friday despite the pullback. 

The first 4.5 trading days of March have smashed records for daily price swings and increases as the world comes to grips with the idea that there is no short term solution to replace Russian petroleum supplies, making the risk of both volatility and government intervention higher than ever.  For both ULSD and RBOB, these would be the largest monthly gains on record if prices hold, and we’re not even through a full week yet. 

For ULSD, we’ve already seen the biggest monthly trading range ($1.30/gallon) in just 4.5 days of trading, while the RBOB range of $.95 ranks third all-time behind the March 2020 and December 2008 market meltdowns that both surpassed $1/gallon. 

An official Russian oil embargo (vs the current unofficial and voluntary embargo) was floated over the weekend, while renewed negotiations to reduce sanctions and increase oil output with both Iran and Venezuela seem to be going nowhere, and both seem to be factors in the latest price spike.    

Already, even though energy products aren’t officially sanctioned (yet), we’re seeing dramatic signs of the impact a lack of international buyers is having on its refining operations, as plants are forced to cut run rates and halt crude intake due to a lack of storage for their production. Refinery maintenance and upgrades are also expected to be hampered without access to foreign technology.   

Regional supplies in the US have been disrupted over the past two weeks by a pair of Kinder Morgan pipeline issues, and a handful of (so far minor) refinery disruptions. The coastal markets remain tight in general, while inland markets remain well supplied, and lacking transportation to help alleviate their glut, and/or take advantage of the record spreads from the middle of the country to the edges.

RIN values pulled back on Friday, even as Corn, Soybean (and refined product) prices continued to spike.  A “news” article suggesting the White House was considering a biofuel waiver to help curb food inflation seems to have been the driver of that selling. Other non-food-based environmental credits like the European EUA’s, and California’s LCFS and CCA credits are all seeing heavy selling as expectations rise for both demand destruction, and a change of heart from governments that just a few weeks ago still thought having clean energy was more important than having energy. 

Short covering was the theme of the week for money managers, that saw large reductions in the short positions held in energy futures. WTI and Brent saw some modest new length enter the market, but the lack of “piling on” at least in the first two days of the week when the CFTC data is collected, suggested these huge swings may be too hot to handle, even for the big speculators.

Baker Hughes reported a decline of 3 oil rigs working in the US last week, snapping a 5 week streak of increases. Natural gas rigs increased by 3, the 9th straight week of gains for natural gas focused drilling.

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

Market Talk Update 3.7.22

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Feb 29 2024

It's Another Mixed Start For Energy Futures This Morning After Refined Products Saw Some Heavy Selling Wednesday

It's another mixed start for energy futures this morning after refined products saw some heavy selling Wednesday. Both gasoline and diesel prices dropped 7.5-8.5 cents yesterday despite a rather mundane inventory report. The larger-than-expected build in crude oil inventories (+4.2 million barrels) was the only headline value of note, netting WTI futures a paltry 6-cent per barrel gain on the day.

The energy markets seem to be holding their breath for this morning’s release of the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The price index is the Fed’s preferred inflation monitor and has the potential to impact how the central bank moves forward with interest rates.

Nationwide refinery runs are still below their 5-year average with utilization across all PADDs well below 90%. While PADD 3 production crossed its 5-year average, it’s important to note that measure includes the “Snovid” shutdown of 2021 and throughput is still below the previous two years with utilization at 81%.

We will have to wait until next week to see if the FCC and SRU shutdowns at Flint Hills’ Corpus Christi refinery will have a material impact on the regions refining totals. Detail on the filing can be found on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website.

Update: the PCE data shows a decrease in US inflation to 2.4%, increasing the likelihood of a rate cut later this year. Energy futures continue drifting, unfazed.

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
Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Feb 28 2024

It’s Red Across The Board For Energy Prices So Far This Morning With The ‘Big Three’ Contracts All Trading Lower To Start The Day

It’s red across the board for energy prices so far this morning with the ‘big three’ contracts (RBOB, HO, WTI) all trading lower to start the day. Headlines are pointing to the rise in crude oil inventories as the reason for this morning’s pullback, but refined product futures are leading the way lower, each trading down 1% so far, while the crude oil benchmark is only down around .3%.

The American Petroleum Institute published their national inventory figures yesterday afternoon, estimating an 8+ million-barrel build in crude oil inventory across the country. Gasoline and diesel stocks are estimated to have dropped by 3.2 and .5 million barrels last week, respectively. The official report from the Department of Energy is due out at its regular time this morning (9:30 CST).

OPEC’n’friends are rumored to be considering extending their voluntary production cuts into Q2 of this year in an effort to buoy market prices. These output reductions, reaching back to late 2022, are aimed at paring back global supply by about 2.2 million barrels per day and maintaining a price floor. On the flip side, knowledge of the suspended-yet-available production capacity and record US output is keeping a lid on prices.

How long can they keep it up? While the cartel’s de facto leader (Saudi Arabia) may be financially robust enough to sustain itself through reduced output indefinitely, that isn’t the case for other member countries. Late last year Angola announced it will be leaving OPEC, freeing itself to produce and market its oil as it wishes. This marks the fourth membership suspension over the past decade (Indonesia 2016, Qatar 2019, Ecuador 2020).

The spot price for Henry Hub natural gas hit a record low, exchanging hands for an average of $1.50 per MMBtu yesterday. A rise in production over the course of 2023 and above average temperatures this winter have pressured the benchmark to a price not seen in its 27-year history, much to Russia’s chagrin.

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