We’re Seeing Another Mixed Bag For Energy Markets This Morning After A Wild Tuesday Session

Market TalkWednesday, Oct 12 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

We’re seeing another mixed bag for energy markets this morning after a wild Tuesday session that saw a stunning recovery in refined product prices. Strong gains overnight have been largely wiped out after the September PPI report showed that inflation is not going away, which moves the hopes of a FED pivot further into the future. RBOB prices have pulled back a nickel from their overnight highs and WTI is down nearly $2 since the report. ULSD meanwhile continues to find its own path, up nearly 7 cents despite the selling in other contracts, as the realities of an extremely tight diesel market continue to ripple across the globe.

The November ULSD contract has decoupled from the rest of the complex, staging an impressive 20+ cent rally Tuesday to settle higher even as most other ULSD contracts finished with heavy losses on the day. The spread from November to December futures has soared to nearly 35 cents this week, which would set records outside of the chaotic trading we saw in March in April. The big moves in the calendar spreads is creating more chaos in basis markets around the country as cash traders try to adjust to the big swings in futures spreads. Most notable today is that NYH ULSD is now trading 40 cents over the November futures, which puts the backwardation roughly 75 cents into December, or more than 1 cent per day. 

OPEC’s oil production ticked slightly higher in September, according to their monthly oil market report released this morning. The cartel’s total output was up 146mb/day for the month, with increases from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Nigeria offsetting declines in Iraq, Iran and Venezuela. It’s worth noting that the September output is still more than 1 million barrels/day below the August target that was used as the bar for the recently announced “production cuts”. The report lowered global demand estimates for 2022 due to ongoing lockdowns in China and economic challenges in Europe. The report also noted that China’s demand loss is allowing their refiners – which are some of the only plants in the world with spare capacity this year – to ramp up exports of refined products.  That change in product flow is one of several factors that have caused tanker rates in parts of the world to double compared to last year, which is also highlighted in this report. 

A US judge approved a long awaited plan to auction off shares of Citgo to settle several long-delayed judgements for companies that had their assets seized by Venezuela’s government. It’s worth noting that the auction wouldn’t take place until late 2023 at the earliest, and would only sell enough shares to pay off the outstanding judgements, not the entire company, which could allow the refiner to continue operating as they’ve been doing, rather than breaking it up into pieces as had been discussed for years. Meanwhile, the US continues to try and negotiate with Venezuela to find a way to bring some of the 2 million barrels/day of oil production back to the world market that’s been missing for the past 7 years as the beleaguered nation spiraled into social chaos.

Tropical Storm Karl formed in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, which would ordinarily be a reason for fuel markets to get nervous, particularly with the supply network already stretched very thin.  The good news with this storm is it is forecast to reverse course and head south into Mexico, so there is no threat to the oil production and refining assets on the US coast.

The EIA’s Short Term Energy outlook will be released later today, while the API and DOE/EIA weekly inventory reports are both delayed due to Monday’s quasi-holiday so the API will be out later this afternoon and the DOE report tomorrow.

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Market Talk Update 10.12.22

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Apr 12 2024

Charts Continue To Favor A Push Towards The $3 Mark For Gasoline, While Diesel Prices May Need To Be Dragged Along For The Ride

Energy prices are rallying once again with the expected Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend appearing to be the catalyst for the move. RBOB gasoline futures are leading the way once again, trading up more than a nickel on the day to reach a fresh 7 month high at $2.8280. Charts continue to favor a push towards the $3 mark for gasoline, while diesel prices may need to be dragged along for the ride.

So far it appears that Motiva Pt. Arthur is the only refinery that experienced a noteworthy upset from the storms that swept across the southern half of the country this week. Those storms also delayed the first round of the Masters, which matters more to most traders this week than the refinery upset.

Chevron’s El Segundo refinery in the LA-area reported an unplanned flaring event Thursday, but the big moves once again came from the San Francisco spot market that saw diesel prices rally sharply to 25 cent premiums to futures. The Bay Area now commands the highest prices for spot gasoline and diesel as the conversion of 1 out of the 4 remaining refineries to renewable output is not-surprisingly creating disruptions in the supply chain.

RIN values dropped back below the 50-cent mark, after the recovery rally ran out of steam last week. The EPA is facing numerous legal challenges on the RFS and other policies, and now half of the US states are challenging the agency’s new rule restricting soot emissions. That lack of clarity on what the law actually is or may be is having widespread impacts on environmental credits around the world and makes enforcement of such policies a bit of a joke. Speaking of which, the EPA did just fine a South Carolina company $2.8 million and require that it buy and retire 9 million RINs for improper reporting from 2013-2019. The cost of those RINs now is about 1/3 of what it was this time last year, so slow playing the process definitely appears to have paid off in this case.

The IEA continues to do its best to downplay global demand for petroleum, once again reducing its economic outlook in its Monthly Report even though the EIA and OPEC continue to show growth, and the IEA’s own data shows “Robust” activity in the first quarter of the year. The IEA has come under fire from US lawmakers for changing its priorities from promoting energy security, to becoming a cheerleader for energy transition at the expense of reality.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Apr 11 2024

Diesel Prices Continue To Be The Weak Link In The Energy Chain

Energy prices are ticking modestly lower this morning, despite warnings from the US that an Iranian attack on Israeli interest is “imminent” and reports of weather induced refinery outages, as demand fears seem to be outweighing supply fears temporarily. Diesel prices continue to be the weak link in the energy chain with both the DOE and OPEC reports giving the diesel bears reason to believe lower prices are coming.

The March PPI report showed a lower inflation reading for producers than the Consumer Price Index report, leading to an immediate bounce in equity futures after the big wave of selling we saw yesterday. To put the CPI impact in perspective, a week ago Fed Fund futures were pricing in an 80% chance of an interest rate cut by the FED’s July 31 meeting, and today those odds have shrunk to 40% according to the CME’s FedWatch tool.

OPEC’s monthly oil market report held a steady outlook for economic growth and oil demand from last month’s report, noting the healthy momentum of economic activity in the US. The cartel’s outlook also highlighted significant product stock increases last month that weighed heavily on refining margins, particularly for diesel. Given the US focus on ULSD futures that are deliverable on the East Coast, which continues to have relatively tight supply for diesel, it’s easy to overlook how quickly Asian markets have gotten long on distillates unless of course you’re struggling through the slog of excess supply in numerous west coast markets these days. The OPEC report noted this in a few different ways, including a 33% decline in Chinese product exports as the region simply no longer needs its excess. The cartel’s oil output held steady during March with only small changes among the countries as they hold to their output cut agreements.

If you believe the DOE’s diesel demand estimates, there’s reason to be concerned about domestic consumption after a 2nd straight week of big declines. The current estimate below 3 million barrels/day is something we typically only see the week after Christmas when many businesses shut their doors. We know the DOE’s figures are missing about 5% of total demand due to Renewable Diesel not being included in the weekly stats, and it’s common to see a drop the week after a holiday, but to lose more than a million barrels/day of consumption in just 2 weeks will keep some refiners on edge.

Most PADDs continue to follow their seasonal trends on gasoline with 1 and 2 still in their normal draw down period, while PADD 3 is rebuilding inventories faster than normal following the transition to summer grade products. That rapid influx of inventory in PADD 3 despite robust export activity helps explain the spike in premiums to ship barrels north on Colonial over the past 2 weeks. Gasoline also saw a sizeable drop in its weekly demand estimate, but given the holiday hangover effect, and the fact that it’s in line with the past 2 years, there’s not as much to be concerned about with that figure. While most of the activity happens in PADDs 1-3, the biggest disconnect is coming in PADDs 4 and 5, with gasoline prices in some Colorado markets being sold 50 cents or more below futures, while prices in some California markets are approaching 90 cents above futures.

Severe weather sweeping across the southern US knocked several units offline at Motiva’s Pt Arthur plant (the country’s largest refinery) Wednesday, and it seems likely that Louisiana refineries will see some disruption from the storm that spawned tornadoes close to the Mississippi River refining hub. So far cash markets haven’t reacted much, but they’ll probably need more time to see what damage may have occurred.

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