Energy Futures Mixed Ahead Of DOE Report And Fed Announcement

Market TalkWednesday, Mar 22 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy futures were calmly waiting on the FED’s 1pm announcement, like many markets around the world, with small and mixed results overnight. Diesel started to make a more meaningful rally attempt as we approach 8am central, moving higher for a 5th straight session, with stronger spreads signaling that refinery disruptions in Europe may finally be having some impact on prices now that most of the banking fears seem to have subsided.   

The CME’s Fedwatch tool shows that expectations for a rate increase have risen in the past week, with just 10% betting the FED will hold rates steady today compared to 45% a week ago when the banking crisis was stirring all sorts of fears.  It’s worth noting that there’s a 60% probability that the FED will raise rates by 50 points over the next 3 meetings, then 50% odds that rates will end up lower than they are now by the end of the year. 

The API estimated gasoline stocks dropped by 1 million barrels last week, while diesel declined by 1.8 million. Crude oil inventories increased by 3.2 million barrels on the week as production held steady near 12.2 million barrels/day. The EIA’s weekly report is due out at its normal time this morning. The agency is still struggling to get a consistent and accurate tally on crude oil inventories due to the growing impact of condensate production on both inventory and export readings. We should also see the largest increase in refinery capacity reported today after Exxon officially brought its new 250mb/day units online at Beaumont TX last week.

France is attempting to requisition refinery workers to get them back on the job and get energy supplies flowing again. After 2 weeks of strikes, the impacts on diesel and crude prices are starting to appear, albeit in much less dramatic fashion than we saw last fall. Both time spreads and crack spreads for diesel have been marching higher over the past week but remain just a fraction of what we saw last year.

The last day of March pipeline trading brought fireworks in the LA spot market Wednesday with a seller of EPA ULSD #2 trapped without any buyers and offering prices all the way down to a 50 cent/gallon discount to futures without a trade ever getting done. Meanwhile multiple bidders for CARB ULSD #2 appeared but no offers at the suddenly huge discounts appeared, leaving the market dislocated, and those making price assessments grasping for straws.   

April cycles should bring more liquidity, and many traders will be returning to the office following the annual AFPM (RIP NPRA) conference, so we should get a better feel for reality today. That said, more big swings are possible however as pipeline space to bring barrels east from LA is maxed out and a scramble for CBG gasoline to supply Phoenix taking up much more capacity than normal due to refinery downtime in other markets may leave diesel stuck at its origin points and put downward pressure on spot prices for the next month or so. The good news for consumers on the West Coast is that wholesale diesel prices are now down more than $2/gallon from where they were 6 months ago, which should help alleviate some of the pain they were feeling last year when retail values surged north of $6.

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

Market Talk Update 03.22.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, May 17 2024

The Recovery Rally In Energy Markets Continues For A 3rd Day

The recovery rally in energy markets continues for a 3rd day with refined product futures both up more than a dime off of the multi-month lows we saw Wednesday morning. The DJIA broke 40,000 for the first time ever Thursday, and while it pulled back yesterday, US equity futures are suggesting the market will open north of that mark this morning, adding to the sends of optimism in the market.

Despite the bounce in the back half of the week, the weekly charts for both RBOB and ULSD are still painting a bearish outlook with a lower high and lower low set this week unless the early rally this morning can pick up steam in the afternoon. It does seem like the cycle of liquidation from hedge funds has ended however, so it would appear to be less likely that we’ll see another test of technical support near term after this bounce.

Ukraine hit another Russian refinery with a drone strike overnight, sparking a fire at Rosneft’s 240mb/day Tuapse facility on the black sea. That plant was one of the first to be struck by Ukrainian drones back in January and had just completed repairs from that strike in April. The attack was just one part of the largest drone attack to date on Russian energy infrastructure overnight, with more than 100 drones targeting power plants, fuel terminals and two different ports on the Black Sea. I guess that means Ukraine continues to politely ignore the White House request to stop blowing up energy infrastructure in Russia.

Elsewhere in the world where lots of things are being blown up: Several reports of a drone attack in Israel’s largest refining complex (just under 200kbd) made the rounds Thursday, although it remains unclear how much of that is propaganda by the attackers and if any impact was made on production.

The LA market had 2 different refinery upsets Thursday. Marathon reported an upset at the Carson section of its Los Angeles refinery in the morning (the Carson facility was combined with the Wilmington refinery in 2019 and now reports as a single unit to the state, but separately to the AQMD) and Chevron noted a “planned” flaring event Thursday afternoon. Diesel basis values in the region jumped 6 cents during the day. Chicago diesel basis also staged a recovery rally after differentials dropped past a 30 cent discount to futures earlier in the week, pushing wholesale values briefly below $2.10/gallon.

So far there haven’t been any reports of refinery disruptions from the severe weather than swept across the Houston area Thursday. Valero did report a weather-related upset at its Mckee refinery in the TX panhandle, although it appears they avoided having to take any units offline due to that event.

The Panama Canal Authority announced it was increasing its daily ship transit level to 31 from 24 as water levels in the region have recovered following more than a year of restrictions. That’s still lower than the 39 ships/day rate at the peak in 2021, but far better than the low of 18 ships per day that choked transit last year.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, May 16 2024

Energy Prices Found A Temporary Floor After Hitting New Multi-Month Lows Wednesday

Energy prices found a temporary floor after hitting new multi-month lows Wednesday morning as a rally to record highs in US equity markets and a modestly bullish DOE report both seemed to encourage buyers to step back into the ring.

RBOB and ULSD futures both bounced more than 6 cents off of their morning lows, following a CPI report that eased inflation fears and boosted hopes for the stock market’s obsession of the FED cutting interest rates. Even though the correlation between energy prices and equities and currencies has been weak lately, the spillover effect on the bidding was clear from the timing of the moves Wednesday.

The DOE’s weekly report seemed to add to the optimism seen in equity markets as healthy increases in the government’s demand estimates kept product inventories from building despite increased refinery runs.

PADD 3 diesel stocks dropped after large increases in each of the past 3 weeks pushed inventories from the low end of their seasonal range to average levels. PADD 2 inventories remain well above average which helps explain the slump in mid-continent basis values over the past week. Diesel demand showed a nice recovery on the week and would actually be above the 5 year average if the 5% or so of US consumption that’s transitioned to RD was included in these figures.

Gasoline inventories are following typical seasonal patterns except on the West Coast where a surge in imports helped inventories recover for a 3rd straight week following April’s big basis rally.

Refiners for the most part are also following the seasonal script, ramping up output as we approach the peak driving demand season which unofficially kicks off in 10 days. PADD 2 refiners didn’t seem to be learning any lessons from last year’s basis collapse and rapidly increased run rates last week, which is another contributor to the weakness in midwestern cash markets. One difference this year for PADD 2 refiners is the new Transmountain pipeline system has eroded some of their buying advantage for Canadian crude grades, although those spreads so far haven’t shrunk as much as some had feared.

Meanwhile, wildfires are threatening Canada’s largest oil sands hub Ft. McMurray Alberta, and more than 6,000 people have been forced to evacuate the area. So far no production disruptions have been reported, but you may recall that fires in this region shut in more than 1 million barrels/day of production in 2016, which helped oil prices recover from their slump below $30/barrel.

California’s Air Resources Board announced it was indefinitely delaying its latest California Carbon Allowance (CCA) auction – in the middle of the auction - due to technical difficulties, with no word yet from the agency when bidders’ security payments will be returned, which is pretty much a nice microcosm for the entire Cap & Trade program those credits enable.

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
Market TalkWednesday, May 15 2024

Week 19 - US DOE Inventory Recap