News Archive

Sign up to receive market talk updates in your inbox each day.

Market TalkTuesday, Jun 18 2024

Prices Moving Higher Today As Market Prepares For Juneteenth Holiday

Refined products are ticking higher for a 2nd day, with RBOB gasoline futures hitting their highest levels of the month at $2.46 overnight, while WTI climbed back above the $80 mark for the first time in 3 weeks.

Markets will be mostly closed tomorrow for the Juneteenth holiday. Spot markets won’t be assessed so most U.S. traders will be taking the day off, even though Nymex contracts will trade in the morning. While rack prices can always change, expect most to stay static tonight through Thursday.

Risk-taking appears to be back in style to start the week, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both reaching fresh record highs as big tech stocks continue to lead the way, while the DJIA bellwether index remains well off of the record high it set a month ago. The correlation between daily price moves in energy and equity markets has been weak for most of the year, but the enthusiasm of broad buying across asset classes so far this week has the markings of a classic risk-on rally, although it’s noteworthy the moves across the board are modest, suggesting the exuberance may be slightly less irrational than it was during the dot com bubble. We shall see.

While the still unnamed storm in the SW Gulf of Mexico won’t be a direct threat to the U.S. coastlines, it is a very large system that’s bringing rain to large parts of Texas (even DFW is expected to get thunderstorms from this system) and coastal flood warnings are in effect across the entire coastline of the state, stretching east into Louisiana.

There is a 2nd potential system the NHC gives 20% odds of developing in the same area as the current “Potential Cyclone” over the next week, while the other disturbance near the Bahamas is given 20% odds of being named as it heads towards the SE U.S. coast.

Ukraine’s drones continue to hit Russian energy assets, with a fuel export facility at the Azov seaport set ablaze overnight. Those attacks come amidst Ukrainian forces repelling Russia’s latest offensive near Kharkiv now that U.S. weapons have finally arrived, forcing the Russian president to float new peace options and visit military powerhouse North Korea to purchase more arms.

The CFTC reached a $55 million settlement with Trafigura over 3 separate charges the trading house A) manipulated gasoline markets by “misappropriating” material information from a counterparty in Mexico (not named, but believed to be Pemex), B) gamed the Platts Window to boost a trading position in 2017, C) coerced employees into not cooperating with investigations into the company’s manipulative practices by CFTC and other law enforcement.

Trafigura did not admit fault as part of the settlement, but did state the company had “voluntarily undertaken significant steps to enhance its compliance program…” For anyone who watched the games being played in the Platts window over the past two decades, it seems they may have got off easy. This latest settlement comes just a couple of months after the company was forced to pay $127 million in fines over bribery charges and makes you wonder if there are more charges to come.

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

Market TalkMonday, Jun 17 2024

CFTC Commitment Of Traders Report Confirmed Short Covering Was Pushing Up Pricing

It’s a quiet start to the week for energy contracts with modest gains of around a penny in the early going for refined products, while crude oil contracts are up less than 50 cents/barrel.

Houthi Rebels continue to attack ships transiting the Red Sea, with the U.S. Navy forced to rescue the crew from 2 different cargo ships that were struck over the past week.

China’s refineries slowed their run rates in May as planned maintenance and weak margins were both cited as contributing to a pullback from the world’s largest oil importer.

The CFTC’s commitment of traders report Friday confirmed that short covering by money managers was most certainly pushing up prices the week prior. WTI saw nearly half of its large speculative short positions bought back in just 1 week, while Brent’s multi-year high short bets were cut by 20%. In total, more than 62,000 crude contracts and 20,000 diesel contracts were repurchased after funds realized their bet that prices would continue sliding after they’d already hit multi-month lows was a mistake. The unwinding of the big speculators’ bets on lower oil prices will no doubt thrill the Saudi Arabian oil minister who famously threatened the “gamblers” back in 2020.

The National Hurricane Center is tracking 2 potential storm systems this week, one in the SW Gulf of Mexico is now given 70% odds of being named, but is expected to move inland over Mexico and not bring a major threat, but will bring thunderstorms to the U.S. Gulf Coast this week. The other system is only given 30% odds of development off of the coast of Georgia or South Carolina and doesn’t appear to be a threat to energy infrastructure.

The EIA published its annual U.S. refining capacity report Friday, which shows operating facilities as of January 1. It finally caught up with the Beaumont facility expansion completed more than 15 months ago, marking the largest growth in U.S. capacity in nearly a decade. Total operable capacity is still below the peak set in 2019 and is expected to drop further as the P66 Rodeo facility was converted this year, and the Lyondell Houston Refinery is once again expected to shut its doors at the end of the year. Since the government’s report is so far delayed, perhaps the most interesting part is the listing of all refineries that have closed since 1990.

Total reported 24 hours of flaring at its Port Arthur, TX refinery over the weekend. The only unit mentioned as a Flare Gas Recovery system so it appears the event won’t have a major impact on operations.

Baker Hughes reported 4 more oil rigs were taken offline in the U.S. last week, bringing the total count to a 2.5-year low at 488. Natural gas rigs were unchanged on the week at 98, the lowest total since October 2021.

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

Market TalkFriday, Jun 14 2024

ULSD Futures Leading The Energy Markets Recovery Rally Today With 6 Week High

The recovery rally continues in energy markets with ULSD futures leading the way reaching a 6 week high this morning. If you were one of the money managers who decided to jump on the short-selling bandwagon at the start of June, you’re now underwater by around $5/barrel for crude oil contracts, and 25 cents/gallon for diesel contracts, which appears to be adding upward pressure to the market as that hot money heads for the exits, and is forced to buy out of their losing bets.

The recovery rally in refined products hasn’t done much to help out refiners that are still looking at their worst summer margins since the COVID lockdowns. The margin outlook is even worse for refiners in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia which is dealing with a glut of supply due to a rush of capacity additions in the past 2 years. Singapore announced this week that it was offering carbon tax rebates for its refiners to try and keep them afloat and able to compete with their new competition from China and Kuwait.

The enemy of my enemy: The American Farm Bureau and Corn Growers associations joined the American Petroleum Institute in a lawsuit Thursday challenging the EPA’s vehicle emissions standards. After the Ag and Oil lobbies have spent decades competing with each other for tax incentives and mandates on ethanol and biodiesel blends, they’ve found common ground in fighting the threat of EVs on their market share, with farmers providing the logical argument that rural communities [and tractors] aren’t conducive to EV use. The Renewable Fuel Association meanwhile is promoting its solution: Plug-in electric hybrid flex-fuel vehicles, or PHEFFVs for not-so-short.

The NHC is now giving 50% odds of development for the storm system brewing off of Mexico’s eastern coastline, but even if that system is named it looks like it will head west over land before threatening the U.S. The other system that threatened Florida this week is now making its way up the East Coast, but won’t be a major storm. Florida is still dealing with flash flooding, but so far there are no reports of terminal outages or port disruptions.

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

Market TalkThursday, Jun 13 2024

Bearish Fundamentals, Hawkish FED Sentiment Leave Energy Futures Searching For Direction

It’s been a choppy morning for energy futures so far, bouncing back and forth between small gains and losses after more inventory builds and a hawkish outlook from the FED both combined to put a stop to the recovery rally Wednesday.

Refined products were trading up 4-5 cents/gallon ahead of the DOE’s weekly report yesterday morning, but quickly wiped out most of those gains after the agency showed more builds in refined product inventories which have reached their highest levels for June since 2021. Refiners did cut run rates for the first time in 6 weeks, but the declines were minor and overall throughput rates remain at the top end of the seasonal range. The DOE’s estimate for product demand did tick modestly higher as well, but those gains weren’t enough to stop the trend of steadily increasing stocks.

Meanwhile, the EIA is still struggling to get its accounting system to keep pace with the U.S. market, as its adjustment factor swings from adding around 8 million barrels the week prior to taking away around 8 million barrels this week. A surge in oil imports to a 5-year high (thanks Transmountain Pipeline) helped oil inventories continue to increase despite that huge drop in the adjustment factor and a drop in exports last week.

The FED left interest rates alone Wednesday and signaled it was likely there would only be 1 rate cut in 2024. Odds of a 25-point cut at the July 31 FOMC meeting dropped from 21% to 8% after the announcement according to the CME’s Fedwatch tool.

The tropics are getting active already in what’s expected to be a very busy year for storm activity. There’s a system that moved over Florida this week, and while it’s only given 20% odds of being named, it dumped more than a foot of rain on parts of the state. So far the Pt Everglades terminal facilities seem like they’ve weathered the big rain much better than when several of them ended up under water from flash flooding a year ago. There’s another system given 40% odds of developing off the Mexican coast, but early forecasts have it shifting west into Mexico and not targeting the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Valero reported an upset at its McKee TX refinery following a Thunderstorm Wednesday, but it appears no operating units were forced to slow down from that event. Meanwhile, Marathon’s Galveston Bay refinery is working its way back towards the lead in the race to have the most TCEQ filings, with yet another upset reported yesterday, this time in a sulfur recovery unit which was able to return to service in roughly 5 hours.

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

Market TalkWednesday, Jun 12 2024

Week 23 - US DOE Inventory Recap

Market TalkWednesday, Jun 12 2024

The Recovery Rally In Energy Contracts Continues This Morning With Refined Products Now Up 15-20 Cents Since Last Tuesday

The recovery rally in energy contracts continues this morning with refined products now up 15-20 cents since last Tuesday, despite some bearish fundamental data from the EIA and IEA monthly reports. It seems clear that some of the big new bets placed on lower energy prices last week are being squeezed out of the market with this week’s rally, and the latest CPI report that showed cooling inflation is adding fuel to the bullish fire.

The BLS reported the Consumer Price Index for all consumers was unchanged in May, with an annual rate of 3.3%, both of which came below most published forecasts. As predicted last month, a big drop in gasoline prices in May was a major contributor to the steady inflation reading, offsetting price increases in shelter, food and services.

The EIA’s monthly energy market report lowered its forecasts for oil and product prices, as global supplies remain ample and non-OPEC production continues to provide plenty of global capacity.

The EIA cited the ongoing weakness in US trucking (quantified in the ATA’s Truck Tonnage Index) for the ongoing slump in diesel demand that’s pushed diesel cracks near 3 year lows. The ATA’s report suggests that “With a rebound in freight remaining elusive, it is likely that additional capacity will leave the industry in the face of continued softness in the market.”

The June outlook also highlighted the big gap between the S&P Global macroeconomic model that the government pays to use in its forecasts, and the actual outcome in terms of US jobs this year. So far in 2024, the S&P Global model has missed the actual job growth by about 90%. Anyone who remembers that S&P is the same group that rated credit default swaps as AAA credit risk in 2008 is probably not surprised by this. S&P also owns Platts.

The IEA continues to use its monthly report to beat a bearish drum, citing a slowing of world oil demand growth that’s roughly half of what it’s rivals at OPEC are projecting for the next 18 months. The agency also notes that refinery margins in Asia are already below “Run Cut” levels [thanks to the influx of new capacity over the past 2 years] and already they’re seeing Chinese refiners cut back rates to “COVID era” levels.

The API reported a draw in both crude and gasoline stocks of around 2.5 million barrels each last week, while diesel stocks increased by just under 1 million barrels. The DOE’s weekly report is due out at its normal time today, and then will be delayed 24.5 hours next week for the Juneteenth holiday on Wednesday.

And you wonder why refiners are leaving the state. In addition to the newly required monthly margin reports recently announced, the California Energy Commission sent out a letter to industry participants Tuesday detailing new requirements for refinery maintenance that take effect next week. Refiners planning maintenance at their facilities are now required to notify the agency at least 120 days before he event, or within 2 days of discovering the need for the work to be done in the case of short-notice or unplanned repairs.

Valero reported an upset at its Pt Arthur TX refinery that occurred Monday afternoon, impacting both a sulfur recovery and gas recovery unit. It appears that none of the major operating units were forced to slow rates however so should be a non-issue.

Today’s interesting read courtesy of RBN Energy: Why no one seems to care about the NE gasoline reserve being shut down.

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