While Crude Oil Prices Also Saw Morning Losses Turn Into Afternoon Gains Yesterday, Diesel Prices Were Left Behind

Market TalkTuesday, Mar 7 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Gasoline futures staged another impressive turnaround Monday, rallying 9 cents from their morning lows to settle at a 4-month high. Prices continued higher overnight, briefly trading north of $2.80 before seeing another modest pullback this morning. The technical stage is now set for gasoline futures to make a run at the $3 mark, although as the early action this morning reminds us, it will not take a straight path to get there.

Gulf Coast gasoline prices outpaced the rest of the country by 6-8 cents/gallon Monday as colonial pipeline took the next step in the spring gasoline transition, making 11.5-pound RVP the tradeable contract and beginning to close the gap with prices on the West Coast as California grades have already converted to 6lb RVP. 

While crude oil prices also saw morning losses turn into afternoon gains yesterday, diesel prices were left behind, with a huge sell-off in natural gas prices getting much of the blame for the underperformance in distillates.

Another round of protests in France has reportedly halted fuel shipments from all of the country’s refineries as workers attempt to disrupt the economy to stop changes to the state pension system. Last fall, French refinery protests contributed to the acute shortage of diesel across much of the Atlantic basin, which culminated in NYH ULSD trading up to $5/gallon in November. So far, multiple rounds of strikes in 2023 have had little impact on fuel prices, as the abnormally warm winter has suppliers dealing with excess after months of fearing shortages. While the pressure has been temporarily lifted on supplies, don’t be surprised if these latest strikes cause a price rally if they last more than a day or two.

Speaking of fearing shortages, the snapshots below from the EIA’s winter Fuels outlook last fall is a good reminder of how much of the industry was on edge about fuel supplies just a few short months ago. We’ll get the latest outlook from the agency later this morning in their monthly STEO report. 

Another major factor in the world seeing substantial healing in fuel supplies over the past few months has been new refining capacity coming online, mostly in Asia and the Middle East.  This morning, Kuwait reported the 2nd phase of its new 615,000 b/d refinery project has been brought online, a month or more ahead of schedule.  

The FED chairman will testify before congress today on the state of the US Economy. The CME’s Fedwatch tool shows that traders are split roughly 50/50 on whether or not we’ll see a combination of rate increases exceeding 75 basis points in the next 4 months and are eagerly awaiting today’s statements to speculate endlessly over whatever is said. Since the correlations between energy prices and equity and currency markets has been fairly soft for the past several months, this may have less influence on fuel prices than we’ve seen in years past, but those patterns can change in an instant depending on the mood and/or programming of the traders involved. 

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

Market Talk Update 03.07.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Sep 22 2023

Energy Markets Are Ticking Modestly Higher This Morning But Remain Well Off The Highs Set Early Thursday

Energy markets are ticking modestly higher this morning but remain well off the highs set early Thursday following the reports that Russia was temporarily banning most refined product exports.  

The law of government intervention and unintended consequences: Russian officials claim the export ban is an effort to promote market stability, and right on cue, its gasoline prices plummeted a not-so-stable 10% following the news. 

There’s a saying that bull markets don’t end due to bad news, they end when the market stops rallying on good news. It’s possible that if ULSD futures continue lower after failing to sustain yesterday’s rally, or this morning’s, we could be seeing the end of the most recent bull run. That said, it’s still much too soon to call the top here, particularly with a steepening forward curve leaving prices susceptible to a squeeze, and the winter-demand months still ahead of us. Short term we need to see ULSD hold above $3.30 next week to avoid breaking its weekly trend line.

The sell-off in RIN values picked up steam Thursday, with 2023 D4 and D6 values dropping to the $1.02 range before finally finding a bid later in the session and ending the day around $1.07.   

Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to be named today, before making landfall on the North Carolina coast tomorrow. This isn’t a major storm, and there aren’t any refineries in its path, so it’s unlikely to do much to disrupt supply, but it will dump heavy rain several of the major East Coast markets so it will likely hamper demand through the weekend. The other storm system being tracked by the NHC is now given 90% odds of being named next week, but its predicted path has shifted north as it moves across the Atlantic, which suggests it is more likely to stay out to sea like Nigel did than threaten either the Gulf or East Coasts.

Exxon reported an upset at its Baytown refinery that’s been ongoing for the past 24 hours.  It’s still unclear which units are impacted by this event, and whether or not it will have meaningful impacts on output. Total’s Pt Arthur facility also reported an upset yesterday, but that event lasted less than 90 minutes. Like most upsets in the region recently, traders seem to be shrugging off the news with gulf coast basis values not moving much. 

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Sep 21 2023

The Yo-Yo Action In Diesel Continues With Each Day Alternating Between Big Gains And Big Losses So Far This Week

The yo-yo action in diesel continues with each day alternating between big gains and big losses so far this week. Today’s 11-cent rally is being blamed on reports that Russia is cutting exports of refined products effective immediately. It’s been a while since Russian sabre rattling has driven a noticeable price move in energy futures, after being a common occurrence at the start of the war. Just like tweets from our prior President however, these types of announcements seem to have a diminishing shelf-life, particularly given how the industry has adapted to the change in Russian export flows, so don’t be surprised if the early rally loses steam later today. 

The announcement also helped gasoline prices rally 5-cents off of their overnight lows, and cling to modest gains just above a penny in the early going. Before the announcement, RBOB futures were poised for a 5th straight day of losses.

IF the export ban lasts, that would be good news for US refiners that have seen their buyers in south American countries – most notably Brazil – reduce their purchases in favor of discounted barrels from Russia this year

US refinery runs dropped below year-ago levels for the first time in 6 weeks, with PADDS 1, 2 and 3 all seeing large declines at the start of a busy fall maintenance schedule.  Oil inventories continued to decline, despite the drop-in run rates and a big increase in the adjustment factor as oil exports surged back north of 5 million barrels/day. Keep in mind that as recently as 2011 the US only produced 5 million barrels of oil every day, and exports were mostly banned until 2016, so to be sending this many barrels overseas is truly a game changer for the global market.

Chicken or the egg?  Cushing OK oil stocks dropped below year-ago levels for the first time since January last week, which may be caused by the return of backwardation incenting shippers to lower inventory levels, the shift to new WTI Midland and Houston contracts as the export market expands.  Of course, the low inventory levels are also blamed for causing the backwardation in crude oil prices, and the shift to an export market may keep inventories at the NYMEX hub lower for longer as fewer shippers want to go inland with their barrels.

Refined product inventories remain near the bottom end of their seasonal ranges, with a healthy recovery in demand after last week’s holiday hangover helping keep stocks in check.  The biggest mover was a large jump in PADD 5 distillates, which was foreshadowed by the 30 cent drop in basis values the day prior.   The big story for gasoline on the week was a surge in exports to the highest level of the year, which is helping keep inventories relatively tight despite the driving season having ended 2 weeks ago.

As expected, the FED held rates yesterday, but the open market committee also included a note that they expected to raise rates one more time this year, which sparked a selloff in equity markets that trickled over into energy prices Wednesday afternoon. The correlation between energy and equities has been non-existent of late, and already this morning we’re seeing products up despite equities pointing lower, so it doesn’t look like the FOMC announcement will have a lasting impact on fuel prices this time around.

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