Energy Prices Were Rallying Overnight After Monday’s Sell-Off Proved Short Lived

Market TalkTuesday, Feb 13 2024
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy prices were rallying overnight after Monday’s sell-off proved short lived. Inflation concerns seem to have snuffed out the early optimism however, as products have turned negative following the latest CPI report.

CPI for January came higher than several published estimates with headline inflation up .3% for the month and 3.1% for the past year. Energy prices continue to be the key factor keeping a lid on inflation, with “core” inflation (excluding food and energy) up 3.9% for the year, with shelter, transportation and food away from home rates all up more than 5%. That stubbornly high inflation is pushing equity and energy prices lower as it appears to give the FED more reason to keep interest rates higher for longer. 

The DJIA, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 all reached record intra-day highs Monday, although they ended the session on a weaker note and traded modestly lower overnight before the CPI report sparked another round of selling. The positive correlation between daily price moves in equity and energy markets has increased lately, with both RBOB and ULSD futures above 80% with S&P 500 moves over the past 30 days after having a negative relationship for the prior 3 months.

Volatility for both asset classes remains low, with investors acting optimistic that we’ve avoided the recession everyone was certain was coming last year.

Inflation expectations continue to have the strongest tie to daily moves in oil prices, as shown by the 5-year Treasury/TIPs spread chart below. 

The EIA this morning highlighted how the shutdown of BP’s refinery in the Chicago metro area is impacting product markets, although very high inventories in PADD 2 are helping to cushion the impact. It’s also likely we’ll see a build-up of crude oil stocks in the region when the weekly inventory reports come out given that the largest buyer was suddenly taken out of the game. The official timeline for restart remains in question, but it appears that the facility won’t be fully back online for at least another week or two.

Oman’s new 230mb/day Duqm refinery is reportedly cranking up its finished product output, continuing the trend of rapidly increasing capacity from Middle Eastern nations. This facility is strategically located and according to some will be a key asset for both Iran and China to avoid sanctions. The main question near term is whether or not Oman has any pull with its neighbors in Yemen to allow the facilities exports to transit the Red Sea without getting missiles lobbed at them.

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Market Talk Update 02.13.2024

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkFriday, Apr 12 2024

Charts Continue To Favor A Push Towards The $3 Mark For Gasoline, While Diesel Prices May Need To Be Dragged Along For The Ride

Energy prices are rallying once again with the expected Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend appearing to be the catalyst for the move. RBOB gasoline futures are leading the way once again, trading up more than a nickel on the day to reach a fresh 7 month high at $2.8280. Charts continue to favor a push towards the $3 mark for gasoline, while diesel prices may need to be dragged along for the ride.

So far it appears that Motiva Pt. Arthur is the only refinery that experienced a noteworthy upset from the storms that swept across the southern half of the country this week. Those storms also delayed the first round of the Masters, which matters more to most traders this week than the refinery upset.

Chevron’s El Segundo refinery in the LA-area reported an unplanned flaring event Thursday, but the big moves once again came from the San Francisco spot market that saw diesel prices rally sharply to 25 cent premiums to futures. The Bay Area now commands the highest prices for spot gasoline and diesel as the conversion of 1 out of the 4 remaining refineries to renewable output is not-surprisingly creating disruptions in the supply chain.

RIN values dropped back below the 50-cent mark, after the recovery rally ran out of steam last week. The EPA is facing numerous legal challenges on the RFS and other policies, and now half of the US states are challenging the agency’s new rule restricting soot emissions. That lack of clarity on what the law actually is or may be is having widespread impacts on environmental credits around the world and makes enforcement of such policies a bit of a joke. Speaking of which, the EPA did just fine a South Carolina company $2.8 million and require that it buy and retire 9 million RINs for improper reporting from 2013-2019. The cost of those RINs now is about 1/3 of what it was this time last year, so slow playing the process definitely appears to have paid off in this case.

The IEA continues to do its best to downplay global demand for petroleum, once again reducing its economic outlook in its Monthly Report even though the EIA and OPEC continue to show growth, and the IEA’s own data shows “Robust” activity in the first quarter of the year. The IEA has come under fire from US lawmakers for changing its priorities from promoting energy security, to becoming a cheerleader for energy transition at the expense of reality.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, Apr 11 2024

Diesel Prices Continue To Be The Weak Link In The Energy Chain

Energy prices are ticking modestly lower this morning, despite warnings from the US that an Iranian attack on Israeli interest is “imminent” and reports of weather induced refinery outages, as demand fears seem to be outweighing supply fears temporarily. Diesel prices continue to be the weak link in the energy chain with both the DOE and OPEC reports giving the diesel bears reason to believe lower prices are coming.

The March PPI report showed a lower inflation reading for producers than the Consumer Price Index report, leading to an immediate bounce in equity futures after the big wave of selling we saw yesterday. To put the CPI impact in perspective, a week ago Fed Fund futures were pricing in an 80% chance of an interest rate cut by the FED’s July 31 meeting, and today those odds have shrunk to 40% according to the CME’s FedWatch tool.

OPEC’s monthly oil market report held a steady outlook for economic growth and oil demand from last month’s report, noting the healthy momentum of economic activity in the US. The cartel’s outlook also highlighted significant product stock increases last month that weighed heavily on refining margins, particularly for diesel. Given the US focus on ULSD futures that are deliverable on the East Coast, which continues to have relatively tight supply for diesel, it’s easy to overlook how quickly Asian markets have gotten long on distillates unless of course you’re struggling through the slog of excess supply in numerous west coast markets these days. The OPEC report noted this in a few different ways, including a 33% decline in Chinese product exports as the region simply no longer needs its excess. The cartel’s oil output held steady during March with only small changes among the countries as they hold to their output cut agreements.

If you believe the DOE’s diesel demand estimates, there’s reason to be concerned about domestic consumption after a 2nd straight week of big declines. The current estimate below 3 million barrels/day is something we typically only see the week after Christmas when many businesses shut their doors. We know the DOE’s figures are missing about 5% of total demand due to Renewable Diesel not being included in the weekly stats, and it’s common to see a drop the week after a holiday, but to lose more than a million barrels/day of consumption in just 2 weeks will keep some refiners on edge.

Most PADDs continue to follow their seasonal trends on gasoline with 1 and 2 still in their normal draw down period, while PADD 3 is rebuilding inventories faster than normal following the transition to summer grade products. That rapid influx of inventory in PADD 3 despite robust export activity helps explain the spike in premiums to ship barrels north on Colonial over the past 2 weeks. Gasoline also saw a sizeable drop in its weekly demand estimate, but given the holiday hangover effect, and the fact that it’s in line with the past 2 years, there’s not as much to be concerned about with that figure. While most of the activity happens in PADDs 1-3, the biggest disconnect is coming in PADDs 4 and 5, with gasoline prices in some Colorado markets being sold 50 cents or more below futures, while prices in some California markets are approaching 90 cents above futures.

Severe weather sweeping across the southern US knocked several units offline at Motiva’s Pt Arthur plant (the country’s largest refinery) Wednesday, and it seems likely that Louisiana refineries will see some disruption from the storm that spawned tornadoes close to the Mississippi River refining hub. So far cash markets haven’t reacted much, but they’ll probably need more time to see what damage may have occurred.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Apr 10 2024

Week 14 - US DOE Inventory Recap