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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.
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.
Week 38- US DOE Inventory Recap
It’s A Soft Start For Energy Markets Wednesday As Traders Await The Weekly Inventory Report, And The FOMC
It’s a soft start for energy markets Wednesday as traders await the weekly inventory report, and the FOMC.
Whiplash is the theme of the week for diesel prices that are trading down 7-cents this morning, after a 10-cent rally Tuesday, that followed a 10-cent decline Monday. The weekly trend-line that helped propel values up more than $1/gallon since July 4th is still barely intact, and may prove pivotal in the weeks ahead, with a slide back below $3 looking likely if it breaks down, while a run towards $4 by year end can’t be ruled out if it holds.
Gasoline prices are trading lower for a 4th straight session and have given up 15 cents/gallon over that stretch. While gasoline futures are looking weak, shippers are paying up to move gasoline north on Colonial again, with line space premiums for Line 1 trading above 4- cents/gallon Wednesday. The transition to winter grades that increases output at Gulf Coast facilities, and the maintenance at two refineries on the East Coast both seem to be contributing to the surge in values.
Another bubble burst? Basis values for gasoline and diesel in LA spot markets dropped 30 cents Tuesday as sellers emerged on both sides of the barrel for the first time in nearly a month.
The API reported another large draw in crude oil inventories last week, with total US inventories declining more than 5 million barrels on the week, while Cushing OK stocks dropped more than 2 million barrels. It was a mixed bag for refined products with gasoline seeing a small increase of around 730,000 barrels, while diesel stocks dropped by 250,000. The EIA’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning.
Reuters reported Wednesday that the surge in WTI prices has closed the arbitrage window to Europe, while Bloomberg is reporting that a French shipper has been driving the bidding for physical prices along the Gulf Coast that’s compounded the jump in futures prices.
RIN values continue their slide this week, trading in the $1.15 range for D4 and D6 values, which marks an 18-month low for ethanol (D6) RINs, and a 30-month low for the Bio/RD (D4) values. The drop in RINs spells more bad news for many RD producers that are also struggling with a sharp drop in California LCFS values, and shipping delays in the Panama Canal. Ethanol prices have also dropped sharply this week as concerns over a supply disruption following last week’s explosion at the country’s largest ethanol plant are subsiding.
We dodged a couple of major storms in the past week with Lee’s late shifts to the east minimizing the damage along the East Coast, and Nigel’s eastward path making it a non-issue. The NHC is tracking 2 other potential systems this week, one looks to be a rain maker over the Southeast US that’s unlikely to develop, while the other is given 70% odds of being named as it moves across the Atlantic and is in the zone that could make it a threat to either the Gulf or East Coasts to start October.
Pretty much nobody expects to see the FED raise rates again today, with the CME’s Fedwatch tool showing 99% odds that rates hold at current levels, while the market is fairly split on whether or not we’ll see another increase at either of the two remaining FOMC meetings this year.
Motiva’s Pt Arthur TX refinery, the largest in the US, reported an upset at an FCC unit Tuesday. Gulf coast spot markets didn’t seem to flinch on the news, suggesting the impact on operations is minimal.
It’s Green Across The Board For Energy Futures This Morning
It’s green across the board for energy futures this morning with distillate prices leading the way higher with 1.8% gains. Crude oil is trading above $92.50 so far today, looking to extend its 3-week rally as it pushes to new yearly highs.
There’s not much in the way of driving headlines this morning with major news sources pointing to the very familiar tight global supply outlook resulting from Saudi Arabian and Russian production cuts. Today that sentiment is bolstered by the report the EIA published yesterday, highlighting its expectation of declining US oil production, specifically in the Permian Basin.
Unless you live in Reykjavik there isn’t much reason to track Hurricane Nigel as it churns in the middle of the Atlantic. The fourteenth named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season is projected to stay out to sea and will likely only disrupt marine traffic for the next week or so. There are a couple disturbances brewing and one system has been given a 70% chance of cyclonic development over the next 7 days.
It’s been almost a week since the reopening of Libyan ports brought ~1 million barrels of crude oil back to the world market, but that doesn’t mean the drama is over. The country’s population is protesting, demanding accountability from the Russia-backed warlord who rules over Derna, the city that flooded and killed thousands. While there is no indication these protests have affecting oil exports, that becoming a reality isn’t farfetch’d, as we’ve seen similar situations in the past.
WTI Futures Are Leading The Way Higher This Morning, Tacking On 1.2% Gains To Start This Week’s Trading
WTI futures are leading the way higher this morning, tacking on 1.2% gains to start this week’s trading. Gasoline futures are trailing slightly, trading higher in what seems like sympathy, adding gains of just over a penny so far today. ULSD is the odd man out of the ‘big three’ energy futures contracts, trading lower by about .3%.
Recovery in Chinese oil demand seems to be taking credit for today’s gains, as cited by oil journalists and the Energy Information Administration alike. While there is still questions surrounding the stickiness of Eastern demand growth, the prospect of tightness is oil supply due to OPEC+ production cuts seems to be widely accepted and a main driver for the crude oil rally we’ve seen over the last three months.
Tropical Storm Lee made landfall west of Halifax, flooding areas of Nova Scotia and claiming a life. While the US Northeast was hit with near-hurricane strength winds and torrential rain, the largest impact to energy infrastructure is at Irving’s New Brunswick refinery, which was forced to close two of it’s catcrackers over the weekend.
Money managers continued piling into WTI contracts as prices broke $90 for the first time in a year last week. Speculators also added length in Brent crude and RBOB, but trimmed their length in ULSD and Gasoil contracts.
Baker Hughes reported an increase of 2 oil production platforms in the US last week, while natural gas rigs jumped a sizeable 8 on the week, bringing the accuracy of the previous months-long decline into question.