Energy Prices Are Bouncing After 2 days Of Heavy Selling To Start The Week

Market TalkWednesday, Mar 16 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy prices are bouncing after 2 days of heavy selling to start the week.  While the moves so far are mild compared to what we’ve been used to so far in March, technical and fundamental factors are hinting that there may be more room to move higher in the weeks to come. 

RBOB futures closed the chart gap left behind by the roll to the summer spec contract at the end of February during Tuesday’s melt-down, but held above its bullish trend-line on the weekly report, both of which are bullish factors leaving room on the charts for more upside just in time for the seasonal jump in demand. ULSD also managed to hang onto the upward sloping trend line despite dropping 30 cents on Tuesday, and was rewarded with a 10 cent bounce so far today.

The IEA is reducing its global oil demand estimate by 1.3 million barrels/day for the rest of the year, and its refinery throughput by 1.1 million barrels/day both due to the war in Ukraine, which it says, “…could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades.” The report also notes that only Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the capacity to bring more oil to the global market quickly, and the other options will take several months at a minimum, IF agreements can be made.

OPEC left its global demand estimate “under assessment” in its March oil output, acknowledging that the fallout from the war in Ukraine will lead to a decline in consumption, but not willing to make an official guess by how much given the chaotic and rapid nature of the changes taking place in the global economy. 

Speaking of which, the chaotic trading of the past couple of weeks is also creating concerns of a repeat of the 2008 liquidity crisis, with billions of dollars in margin calls putting some companies on the brink of insolvency. Since 2008, banks have been finding new ways to circumvent the laws put in place to keep them acting like banks and not the biggest oil traders in the world (which is why the actual traders have to rush their EFP orders to the exchange in 15 minutes or less) and now Barclays has announced it was suspending its ETN tied to crude oil after it realized that pushing these contracts on its customers is not a good idea when prices are moving this quickly. 

For those that remember the oil price spike that killed Semgroup in 2008, and its “bank’s” alleged role in that short squeeze, it’s not hard to imagine the fallout that could still come from the whipsaw action we just witnessed over the past two weeks. 

If you think that’s a little dramatic, just look at what happened in the Nickel market again this morning.

Speaking of dramatic, West Coast gasoline markets are doing their diva impressions once again, with basis values in both northern and southern California soaring to nearly $1/gallon over futures as refinery disruptions and a lack of replacement options thanks to the state’s boutique grades hammer those markets while other regions have enjoyed a bit of relief as prices have pulled back sharply over the past week.

The API reported a draw in gasoline stocks last week of nearly 3.8 million barrels, while distillates had a small build of less than 1 million barrels. There is plenty of evidence of a spike in demand over the past couple of weeks as consumers panicked over rising prices and potential supply shortages, which could manifest as large inventory draws in today’s DOE report. 

The FOMC announcement is expected at 1pm central. According to the CME’s fedwatch tool, just about everyone expects a 25 point rate increase today (the first increase in 3 years) and just about everyone is planning that this will be the first of at least 6 rate hikes for the year.

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

Market Talk Update 3.16.22

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Feb 23 2024

The DOE Report Sparked A Solid Rally In Energy Futures Thursday, But That Upward Momentum Proved Short-Lived

The DOE report sparked a solid rally in energy futures Thursday, but that upward momentum proved short-lived as prices gave back those gains overnight, despite US equity markets surging to all-time highs.

The weekly inventory report showed US refiners are struggling to come back online from a busy maintenance season that was further complicated by January’s cold snap and the unexpected shut down at BP Whiting. Refinery utilization held near 80% on the week, which helped pull gasoline inventories lower despite sluggish demand and a surge in imports along the East Coast. Diesel demand showed a big recovery from last week’s ugly estimate, and when you factor in the missing 4-5% that doesn’t show up due to RD not being included in the reports, actual consumption looks much healthier than the report suggests.

Based on reports of restarts at several major refineries this week, we should see those utilization numbers pick up in next week’s report.

The EPA Thursday approved year-round E15 sales in 8 corn-growing states, despite the fact that the extra ethanol blends have been shown more to pollute more in the warm times of the year. The effective date was pushed back a year however in a show of election-year tight rope walking, which the EPA couched as ensuring that the move wouldn’t lead to a spike in fuel prices this summer.

Of course, the law of unintended consequences may soon be at play in a region that tends to be long gasoline supply for large parts of the year. Removing 5% of the gasoline demand could be another nail in some of the smaller/less complex refineries’ coffins, which would of course make fuel supply less secure, which contradicts one of the main arguments for making more 198 proof grain alcohol and selling it as fuel. Ethanol prices meanwhile continue to slump to multi-year lows this week as low corn prices continue to push unusually high production, and the delayed effective date of this ruling won’t help that.

While Nvidia’s chip mania is getting much of the credit for the surge in equity prices this week, there was also good news for many more companies in reports that the SEC was planning to drop its requirements on Scope 3 emissions reporting which is particularly useful since most people still can’t figure out what exactly scope 3 emissions really are.

In today’s segment of you can’t make this stuff up: The case of chivalry gone wrong with the BP/TA acquisition, and a ketchup caddy company caught spoofing electric capacity.


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 TalkThursday, Feb 22 2024

Week 7 - US DOE Inventory Recap

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Feb 22 2024

RBOB And ULSD Futures Down Around 2.5 Cents After A Mixed Performance Wednesday

Refined products are leading the energy complex lower to start Thursday’s trading with both RBOB and ULSD futures down around 2.5 cents after a mixed performance Wednesday.

The API reported another large build in crude oil inventories last week, with inventories up more than 7 million barrels while gasoline inventories increased by 415,000 barrels and diesel stocks dropped by 2.9 million. The crude oil build was no doubt aided once again by the shutdown of BP’s Whiting refinery that takes nearly ½ million barrels/day of oil demand out of the market. That facility is said to be ramping up operations this week, while full run rates aren’t expected again until March. The DOE’s weekly report will be out at 11am eastern this morning.

Too much or not enough? Tuesday there were reports that the KM pipeline system in California was forced to shut down two-line segments and cut batches in a third due to a lack of storage capacity as heavy rains have sapped demand in the region. Wednesday there were new reports that some products ran out of renewable diesel because of those pipeline delays, bringing back memories of the early COVID lockdown days when an excess of gasoline caused numerous outages of diesel.

The Panama Canal Authority has announced $8.5 billion in sustainability investments planned for the next 5 years. Most of those funds are aimed at sustainability efforts like modernizing equipment and installing solar panels, while around $2 billion is intended for a better water management system to combat the challenges they’ve faced with lower water levels restricting transit by 50% or more in the past year. More importantly in the near term, forecasts for the end of the El Nino pattern that contributed to a record drought, and the beginning of a La Nina pattern that tends to bring more rain to the region are expected to help improve water levels starting this summer.

The bad news is that La Nina pattern, coupled with historically warm water temperature has Accuweather forecasters sounding “Alarm Bells” over a “supercharged” hurricane season this year. Other years with a similar La Nina were 2005 which produced Katrina, Rita and Wilma and 2020 when we ran out of names, and the gulf Coast was repeatedly pummeled but markets didn’t react much due to the COVID demand slump. Perhaps most concerning for the refining industry is that unlike the past couple of years when Florida had the bullseye, the Texas coast is forecast to be at higher risk this year.

RIN prices continued their slide Wednesday morning, trading down to 38 cents/RIN before finally finding a bid that pushed values back to the 41-42 cent range by the end of the day.

The huge slide in RIN values showed up as a benefit in Suncor’s Q4 earnings report this morning, as the Renewable Volume Obligation for the company dropped to $4.75/barrel vs $8.55/barrel in Q4 of 2022. Based on the continued drop so far in 2024, expect that obligation to be nearly cut in half again. Suncor continued the trend of pretty much every other refiner this quarter, showing a dramatic drop in margins from the record-setting levels in 2022, but unlike a few of its counterparts over the past week was able to maintain positive earnings. The company noted an increase in refining runs after recovering from the Christmas Eve blizzard in 2022 that took down its Denver facility for months but did not mention any of the environmental challenges that facility is facing.

Valero’s McKee refinery reported a flaring event Wednesday that impacted multiple unites and lasted almost 24 hours. Meanwhile, Total reported more flaring at its Pt Arthur facility as that plant continues to struggle through restart after being knocked offline by the January deep freeze.

Speaking of which, the US Chemical Safety board released an update on its investigation into the fire at Marathon’s Martinez CA renewable diesel plant last November, noting how the complications of start -up leave refineries of all types vulnerable.

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