Energy Prices Continue Choppy Trading Action

Market TalkThursday, May 14 2020
Energy Prices Continue Choppy Trading Action

Energy prices continue their choppy trading action, starting Thursday’s action with modest gains, after another selloff Wednesday. The IEA’s monthly oil market report seems to be contributing to the optimism this morning, with a global demand forecast that’s less bad than previous estimates.

Yesterday’s DOE status report showed U.S. crude oil stocks declining for the first time in 16 weeks, as lower production and fewer imports were able to offset another drop in refinery runs, while export volumes of oil held relatively steady. Cushing, OK stocks dropped by more than one million barrels on the week, leaving inventories at the NYMEX delivery hub some seven million barrels below the record levels set in 2017, and suggesting the May contract plunge into negative territory last month was less about tankage, and more about amateur trading.

The DOE report also suggest the industry may have over-healed its gasoline containment issues from a month ago, and now left itself with diesel containment challenges. While several regional markets are now facing short term gasoline shortages due to demand picking back up more quickly than supply can keep up, diesel inventories have spiked from below their seasonal range five weeks ago, to above the top end of that range currently.

Right on cue, Colonial Pipeline filed for a temporary rule change with the FERC Wednesday, which would allow the pipeline operator to liquidate product that was shipped without a capable receipt destination at negative values if necessary, and charge the shipper back for any pipeline delays or shutdowns caused by “shipper misbehavior.” The filing cites merchant storage along its destinations filling to capacity and an uptick in product being shipped without a valid destination, forcing the company to auction off more abandoned product.

So why did gasoline prices drop seven cents on a day when inventories were reported to decline for a third week and U.S. demand ticked up by eleven percent? It’s hard to make a strong fundamental argument based on the headline data – although gasoline output was up more than demand on the week, and exports dropped sharply for a second week. With U.S. refiners becoming more dependent on exports in recent years to balance the fundamental equation, last week’s plunge to new five-year lows for gasoline exports could spell trouble longer term if it doesn’t reverse course soon. In addition to the export and production swings, there’s a technical argument for the heavy wave of selling once RBOB futures failed to break resistance and formed a short term rounding top on the chart. That technical weakness suggests that unless RBOB can get back above $.90 to end the week, there’s more selling likely in the back half of May.

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Market TalkFriday, Jun 2 2023

Energy Prices Up Over 2% Across The Board This Morning

Refined product futures traded in an 8-10 cent range yesterday with prompt heating oil settling up ~6 cents and RBOB ending up about flat. Oil prices clawed back some of the losses taken in the first two full trading days of the week, putting the price per barrel for US crude back over the $70 mark. Prices are up just over 2% across the board this morning, signifying confidence after the Senate passed the bipartisan debt ceiling bill last night.

The EIA reported crude oil inventories up 4.5 million barrels last week, aided by above-average imports, weakened demand, and a sizeable increase to their adjustment factor. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve continues to release weekly through June and the 355 million barrels remaining in the SPR is now at a low not seen since September 1983. Exports increased again on the week and continue to run well above last year’s record-setting levels through the front half of the year. Refinery runs and utilization rates have increased to their highest points this year, both sitting just above year-ago rates.

Diesel stocks continue to hover around the low end of the 5-year range set in 2022, reporting a build of about half of what yesterday’s API data showed. Most PADDs saw modest increases last week but all are sitting far below average levels. Distillate imports show 3 weeks of growth trending along the seasonal average line, while 3.7 million barrels leaving the US last week made it the largest increase in exports for the year. Gasoline inventories reported a small decline on the week, also being affected by the largest jump in exports this year, leaving it under the 5-year range for the 11th consecutive week. Demand for both products dwindled last week; however, gas is still comfortably above average despite the drop.

The sentiment surrounding OPEC+’s upcoming meeting is they’re not likely to extend oil supply cuts, despite prices falling early in the week. OPEC+ is responsible for a significant portion of global crude oil production and its policy decisions can have a major impact on prices. Some members of OPEC+ have voluntarily cut production since April due to a waning economic outlook, but the group is not expected to take further action next week.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Jun 1 2023

Prices Are Mixed This Morning As The Potential Halt In U.S. Interest Rate Hikes

Bearish headlines pushed refined products and crude futures down again yesterday. Prompt RBOB closed the month at $2.5599 and HO at $2.2596 with WTI dropping another $1.37 to $68.09 and Brent losing 88 cents. Prices are mixed this morning as the potential halt in U.S. interest rate hikes and the House passing of the US debt ceiling bill balanced the impact of rising inventories and mixed demand signals from China.

The American Petroleum Institute reported crude builds of 5.2 million barrels countering expectations of a draw. Likewise, refined product inventories missed expectations and were also reported to be up last week with gasoline adding 1.891 million barrels and diesel stocks rising 1.849 million barrels. The market briefly attempted a push higher but ultimately settled with losses following the reported supply increases implying weaker than anticipated demand. The EIA will publish its report at 10am this morning.

LyondellBasell announced plans yesterday to delay closing of their Houston refinery, originally scheduled to shut operations by the end of this year, through Q1 2025. The company “remains committed to ceasing operation of its oil refining business” but the 289,000 b/d facility remaining online longer than expected will likely have market watchers adjusting this capacity back into their balance estimates.

Side note: there is still an ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Two oil refineries located east of Russia's major oil export terminals were targeted by drone attacks. The Afipsky refinery’s 37,000 b/d crude distillation unit was struck yesterday, igniting a massive fire that was later extinguished while the other facility avoided any damage. The attacks are part of a series of intensified drone strikes on Russian oil pipelines. Refineries in Russia have been frequently targeted by drones since the start of the military operation in Ukraine in February 2022.

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Jun 1 2023

Week 22 - US DOE Inventory Recap