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Equity And Energy Markets Sent Sharply Lower

Monday, Jul 19 2021
Market Talk

Surging COVID case counts, a new OPEC deal, and the risks of a cyber - war between the world’s two largest economies all seem to be combining to send equity and energy markets sharply lower to start the week, putting the bullish trend that’s pushed prices higher for 8 months at risk.

All of the big 4 petroleum contracts are currently trading below the weekly trend-lines that have pushed prices higher since November. ULSD is looking the worst from a technical perspective, already moving below the lows we saw during the short-lived sell-off two weeks ago, and coming within a penny of taking out its June lows. If these trend lines break, there’s a strong argument based on the charts that we could see a $10/barrel drop in crude and $.25/gallon drop in products before the end of summer. Don’t bank on it just yet however, we still need to see prices settle and hold at these lower levels before we can call an end to the trend.

OPEC & Friends ratified their agreement to add 400,000 barrels/day of held back production starting in August, and are planning to continue increasing at that level until output returns to pre-COVID levels sometime late next year. While the market is moving lower following that news, this is actually less than the 500,000 barrels/day many expected to see added monthly, and should leave global inventories on a drawdown path for the rest of this year, so it would seem that the selling today has more to do with concerns over the spread of COVID and Chinese Computer viruses and less with a sudden surge in oil output.

While the news will focus on the accusations of state-sponsored hacking, China is steadily waging war on global refiners, ramping up run rates and seeing record diesel exports which is contributing to refiners in other parts of the world contemplate permanent shut downs. They aren’t just expanding operations at home either, as reports announce a new $3 billion refinery will be funded and built by China’s national engineering firm in Iraq.

Baker Hughes reported 2 more oil rigs were put to work in the US last week, matching the average weekly change that we’ve seen over the past 2.5 months. Notable this week is that the “other” non-specified basins saw an increase of 6 rigs (10% of their total) while the Permian stayed flat for a 4th week, and the Eagle Ford and Woodford basins both declined by two. The increases in relatively unknown basins is consistent with a WSJ article last week that highlighted how speculative grade oil companies are (not surprisingly) raising large amounts of capital through low-rate bond issuances. 

If you’re feeling whiplashed by the recent market swings, don’t beat yourself up, the people who bet with other people’s money for a living don’t appear to be doing very well lately.  The weekly Commitments of Traders report showed that Money Managers (aka hedge funds) jumped back off the energy bandwagon 2 weeks ago just before prices bounced sharply off of the 8 month old trend-lines, and then added to their positions last week, just in time for another sell-off.  The weekly moves continue to be relatively small – particularly in crude oil contracts – but products are seeing larger moves. 

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