Energy Markets Are Pointing Modestly Higher To Start Friday’s Session

Market TalkFriday, May 3 2024
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy markets are pointing modestly higher to start Friday’s session, in a meager attempt at a recovery rally at the end of what would be the worst week in over two months if prices settle near current values. The liquidation of speculative bets placed on higher energy prices ahead of the direct conflict between Israel and Iran continues to appear to be the driver of the weakness, and we’ll have to wait and see if this modest bounce is a sign that the liquidation is over, or just a pause before it picks up again. Most contracts remain in a precarious technical position with the potential for a slide towards $70 for WTI and $2.20 for both refined products if the buyers don’t get serious soon.

Stocks are pointing sharply higher after a slowdown in job growth reported in the April Non-Farm payroll report. The BLS reported an increase of 175,000 jobs for the month, down sharply from the 315,000 jobs added in March, and the February & March estimates were revised down a combined 22,000. Both the “official” (U-3) and “real” (U-6) unemployment rates ticked up by .1% to 3.9% and 7.4% respectively. The immediate positive reaction to negative news suggest that the bad news is good news low-interest-rate junkies believe this may help the FED’s dilemma of the US economy being too strong to cut rates. The big jump in equities has not seemed to spill over into energy contracts yet, as crude and refined product contracts changed very little following the report.

San Francisco diesel basis spiked 15 cents Thursday to reach the highest level of any market in the country so far this year at 35 cents over prompt futures. While there aren’t yet any refinery upsets reported to blame the spike on, PBF is undergoing planned maintenance at its Martinez facility, and of course P66 just finished converting its Rodeo plant to RD after Marathon converted its Martinez facility in the past couple of years, meaning there are at most only 2 out of the previous 5 refineries in the region operating near capacity these days. The question now is how quickly barrels can shift north from Southern California which continues to show signs of a supply glut with weak basis values and spot to rack spreads.

PBF continued the trend of Q1 refinery earnings that were sharply lower, but still healthy by longer-term historical standards. The company noted that its Saint Bernard (the parish, not the dog) Renewables facility co-processing at its Chalmette refinery had received provisional approval from CARB to lower its CI scores and help improve the amount of LCFS subsidies it can receive. That facility is operating at 18mb/day which is roughly 86% of its capacity.

Cenovus highlighted the restart of its Toledo and Superior refineries in improved refinery run rates in Q1 2024 vs Q1 2023 and noted that it had ramped up production at units that were slowed down for economic reasons in December and January (you may remember this as the time when midcontinent basis values were trading 50 cents/gallon below futures). The company did note that the January deep freeze slowed operations at Superior, but did not mention any change in operating rates despite numerous upsets at its 50% owned Borger refinery.

Dress rehearsal for a busy hurricane season? So far there are no reports of refinery issues caused by the flooding in the Houston area this week. At this point, most of the flooding appears to be far to the north of the refining hubs on the Gulf Coast but with more storms in the forecast and 88 counties already declaring disaster status, this will be something to watch for the next few days.

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

Market Talk Update 05.03.2024

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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