Fears Of An Economic Slowdown Are Getting Much Of The Blame For The Big Sell-Off This Week

Market TalkThursday, Apr 20 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Refined products are trading lower for a 4th straight day after a heavy wave of selling Wednesday pushed gasoline futures to a 3-week low, while ULSD futures are within a penny of the lowest levels since January 2022. Fears of an economic slowdown are getting much of the blame for the big sell-off this week, with yesterday’s DOE report offering little to counter those concerns as domestic fuel consumption remains fairly soft. 

While futures continue to act as though the sky is falling, physical markets across large parts of the US are telling a very different story. Space to ship gasoline on Colonial’s mainline surged to a nickel premium Wednesday as spreads between the NYH and Gulf Coast continue to widen following the transition to summer grade products in NY this week.    

Markets across the US Southwest continue to see huge premiums for both gasoline and diesel and it seems like the only thing that will end that price spike is the return to service of 2 refineries in the region that are both down for extended maintenance. 

Group 3 basis values jumped back up to a 20-cent premium over ULSD futures Wednesday, after pulling back sharply from abnormally strong levels earlier in the week. PADD 2 distillate stocks remains at the bottom of the 5-year seasonal range just in time for planting season and a couple of facilities still have maintenance work ongoing, which may keep prices elevated in the area for another few weeks. 

The EIA’s estimate for gasoline demand saw a large decline last week, which added fuel to the gasoline fear fire that’s seen prices drop 30 cents in the past week. Refiners are also cranking up their run rates as a busy spring maintenance season starts to wind down, which is alleviating concerns about shortages in some areas, even as extreme shortages persist in others.

The EIA finally acknowledged that its weekly refining capacity figures are not including the new 250mb/day expansion of Exxon’s Beaumont facility, which is causing utilization figures to be inflated, until the capacity report is updated at the end of May. 

While the White House is pressing the EPA to try and get phase 3 fuel economy standards pushed through the courts, Exxon and Chevron are offering an EV alternative with new production of renewable gasoline blends being road-tested by the majors. Both companies have also been working on technology to co-process renewable fuels at their traditional oil refineries, which would be incredibly more efficient than the shut-down conversions we’ve seen several other facilities try over the past few years. 

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Market Talk Update 04.20.2023

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkTuesday, Nov 28 2023

Values For Space On Colonial’s Main Gasoline Line Continue To Drop This Week

The petroleum complex continues to search for a price floor with relatively quiet price action this week suggesting some traders are going to wait and see what OPEC and Friends can decide on at their meeting Thursday. 

Values for space on Colonial’s main gasoline line continue to drop this week, with trades below 10 cents/gallon after reaching a high north of 18-cents earlier in the month. Softer gasoline prices in New York seems to be driving the slide as the 2 regional refiners who had been down for extended maintenance both return to service. Diesel linespace values continue to hold north of 17-cents/gallon as East Coast stocks are holding at the low end of their seasonal range while Gulf Coast inventories are holding at average levels.

Reversal coming?  Yesterday we saw basis values for San Francisco spot diesel plummet to the lowest levels of the year, but then overnight the Chevron refinery in Richmond was forced to shut several units due to a power outage which could cause those differentials to quickly find a bid if the supplier is forced to become a buyer to replace that output.

Money managers continued to reduce the net length held in crude oil contracts, with both Brent and WTI seeing long liquidation and new short positions added last week. Perhaps most notable from the weekly COT report data is that funds are continuing their counter-seasonal bets on higher gasoline prices. The net length held by large speculators for RBOB is now at its highest level since Labor Day, at a time of year when prices tend to drop due to seasonal demand weakness. 

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkMonday, Nov 27 2023

After Another Black Friday Selloff Pushed Energy Futures Sharply Lower In Last Week’s Holiday-Shortened Trading

After another Black Friday selloff pushed energy futures sharply lower in last week’s Holiday-shortened trading, we’re seeing a modest bounce this morning. Since spot markets weren’t assessed Thursday or Friday, the net change for prices since Wednesday’s settlement is still down more than 6-cents for gasoline and almost 5-cents for diesel at the moment.

OPEC members are rumored to be nearing a compromise agreement that would allow African producers a higher output quota. Disagreement over that plan was blamed on the cartel delaying its meeting by 4-days last week which contributed to the heavy selling. The bigger problem may come from Russia, who announced plans last week to increase its oil output once its voluntary cut agreement ends now that price cap mechanisms are proving to be ineffective

While an uneasy truce in Gaza held over the weekend, tensions on the Red Sea continued to escalate with the US Navy intervening to stop another hijacking and being rewarded for its efforts by having missiles fired at one of its ships.  

RIN values came under heavy selling pressure Wednesday afternoon following a court overturning the EPA’s ruling to deny small refinery hardship waivers to the RFS. Those exemptions were a big reason we saw RINs drop sharply under the previous administration, and RINs were already on due to the rapid influx of RD supply this year.

More bad news for the food to fuel lobby: the White House is reportedly stalling plans to allow E15 blending year-round after conflicting studies about ethanol’s ability to actually lower carbon emissions, and fuel prices. Spot prices for ethanol in Chicago reached a 2.5 year low just ahead of the holiday.  

Baker Hughes reported the US oil rig count held steady at 500 active rigs last week, while natural gas rigs increased by 3. 

The first of perhaps several refining casualties caused by the rapid increase in new capacity over the past two years was reported last week. Scotland’s only refinery, which has a capacity of 150mb/day is preparing to shutter in 2025.

The CFTC’s commitment of traders report was delayed due to the holiday and will be released this afternoon.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Nov 22 2023

Week 47 - US DOE Inventory Recap