It’s An Unusually Quiet Start For Energy Prices Wednesday, Ahead Of A Busy Day Full Of Economic And Inventory Data Later This Morning

Market TalkWednesday, Nov 2 2022
Pivotal Week For Price Action

It’s an unusually quiet start for energy prices Wednesday, ahead of a busy day full of economic and inventory data later this morning, and an FOMC announcement this afternoon.

Unsubstantiated rumors that China may change their COVID-zero policy – which has kept a lid on demand in the world’s largest oil importer this year – was the easy headline to point to for the rally in crude and gasoline prices Tuesday, probably because that’s a much easier explanation than the realities of money flows in the market, particularly on the first trading day of a month. 

Other rumors that Iran may be planning an attack on Saudi Arabia, perhaps to turn attention away from the violent crackdown on protesters, were also given credit for a brief increase in overnight prices, although those moves proved short lived. 

The API reported a drawdown of 6.5 million barrels of oil in the US last week, as the SPR releases wind down and offer less of a supplement to commercial supplies. Gasoline stocks were reported to drop by 2.6 million barrels while distillates increased by 865,000 barrels.  The DOE/EIA’s weekly report is due out at its normal time. 

The majority of the global market is expecting the FOMC to announce another 75 point rate increase today – the 4th consecutive increase of that size - with the CME’s FedWatch tool showing an 86% probability of that increase priced in to FED Fund futures.  The big question is if the FOMC will signal a slowdown in hikes in future meetings, with the market fairly split between a 50 and 75 point hike at December’s meeting. The FED Chair is set to give a news conference at 1:30 central, which can often create more volatility than the announcement itself.

Tropical Storm Lisa is heading towards Belize, and a new long range model gives that storm a chance to redevelop after crossing the Yucatan into the Gulf of Mexico next week, so we’ll need to keep an eye on that storm for a few more days. Tropical Storm Martin has formed in the North Atlantic, but is moving away from the US and does not pose a threat to land. In addition to the two late season tropical storms, the NHC is giving low (20%) odds of another system forming in the Caribbean over the next 5 days. The official Hurricane season ends November 30, leaving just about 4 weeks for the market to hold their breath that we make it through without a disruption to the supply network that’s wound historically tight.

For those that don’t like reading, the WSJ has published a video noting the complexities (aka loopholes) in sanctions that continue to allow Russian oil to end up in the US, and why the new sanctions set to take place in December may force another shift in supply. The refinery highlighted in that video has become a hot topic of conversation over the past week as Italy races to do what it can to keep it operating. Looking forward, as China and India continue to buy more Russian crude, and expand their refining capacity, it’s easy to see how more and more US imports of refined products could be starting out as crude oil in Russia. 

For those that do like reading, take a look at this thorough explanation from RBN energy of what’s thrown diesel markets out of whack this year, and why an export ban would be counterproductive. 

Grain markets are breathing a sigh of relief after Russia agreed to rejoin the truce on shipments in the Black Sea, which may help cool the recent run up in ethanol prices. Then again, the rail strike that was “narrowly averted” in September continues to crop up as 2 unions have refused to ratify that agreement, setting the stage for another showdown later this month that could have widespread impacts on the distribution of ethanol and numerous other commodities.  

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

Market Talk Update 11.02.2022

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Market TalkThursday, Dec 1 2022

December Trading Is Kicking Off With Modest Gains For Energy Contracts

December trading is kicking off with modest gains for energy contracts after a strong finish to November helped the complex avoid a technical breakdown.  

Equity markets saw another big rally Wednesday after the FED chair suggested that smaller rate hikes were coming. The correlation between energy and equity markets remains weak, so it doesn’t seem like that’s having much influence on daily pricing, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the case for a recovery rally.  New reports that China may ease some lockdowns in the wake of last weekend’s protests is also getting some credit for the strength in prices after they reached 11 month lows on Monday.

The DOE’s weekly report had something for everyone with crude oil stocks showing some bullish figures while refined product supplies got some much-needed relief.

US Crude oil inventories saw a huge drop of more than 12 million barrels last week thanks to a surge in exports to the 3rd highest level on record, a drop in imports, and the SPR sales that have been supplementing commercial supplies for the past 6 months wind down. The market reaction was fairly muted to the big headline drop, which is probably due to the inconsistent nature of the import/export flows, which are likely to reverse course next week. The lack of SPR injections will be a key figure to watch through the winter, particularly as the Russian embargo starts next week.

Diesel inventories increases across all 5 PADDs last week, as demand dipped again and imports ticked higher. Diesel exports remain above average, and are expected to continue that pace in the near term as European and Latin American buyers continue to be short. Read this note for why in the long term more of those supplies will probably come from China or Kuwait

US refiners continue to run all-out, with total throughput last week reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic, even though we’ve lost more than 600,000 barrels/day of capacity since then. Those high run rates at a time of soft demand help explain why we’re seeing big negative basis values at the refining hubs around the country and if the pipeline and vessel outlets can’t keep pace to move that product elsewhere we may see those refiners forced to cut back due to lack of storage options.

The EPA was required by court order to submit its plans for the renewable fuel standard by November 16, and then came to an agreement to release them on November 30, and then apparently decided to meet that deadline, but not release the plan to the public. If you think this is ridiculous, you’re not alone, but keep in mind this is the same agency that regularly missed the statutory deadline by more than a year previously, so it’s also not too surprising. This is also the law that required 16 billion gallons/year of cellulosic biofuels be blended by 2022 when it was put into place 15 years ago, only to run into a wall of physical reality where the country is still unable to produce even 1 billion gallons/year of that fuel. 

There are still expectations that the public may get to see the proposed rulings later this week, and reports that renewable electricity generation will be added to the mix for the first time ever starting next year. RIN prices were pulling back from the 18 month highs they reached leading up to the non-announcement as it seems the addition of “eRINs” will add new RIN supply, and potentially offset the increased biofuel mandates.

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 TalkWednesday, Nov 30 2022

Energy Markets Are Seeing A Strong Rally For A 2nd Day

Energy markets are seeing a strong rally for a 2nd day as uncertainty about the upcoming OPEC meeting and about the looming Russian oil embargo seem to have markets focusing on supply fears again, after weeks of demand-fears driving prices lower. Diesel prices are up more than 22 cents from yesterday’s low trade, while gasoline prices are up 12. The bounce puts the complex back in neutral technical territory after surviving a trip to the edge of a breakdown that could have sent prices sharply lower. 

Concerns about a pending recession continue to plague equity markets as the US Treasury yield curve is inverted to a degree we’ve only seen a couple of times in the past 25 years. As the chart below shows, these inversions have been a good indicator of a pending economic slowdown. Energy markets seem to already have gotten that selling out of their system in the short term, but this could once again become a factor if this latest rally runs out of steam. 

The European Union still can’t unite on a price cap agreement for Russian oil, less than a week before an embargo on Russian oil is set to begin. Both WTI and Brent crude have slipped into a Contango price curve near term as current supplies are proving ample as traders have had months to prepare for this change, and demand has softened globally. 

Meanwhile, Italian officials continue to race to find a way to keep their Sicilian refinery in operation after the embargo begins, asking the US to provide banks assurance that they won’t face fines for breaching sanctions given the Russian-owned status of that plant. Since the US is a consistent buyer of products from that facility, and the East Coast continues to struggle to find enough supply, perhaps it’s an offer they can’t refuse. 

OPEC and friends have decided to hold their upcoming meeting virtually, which some are taking as a sign that they will roll over their output cut agreement from October. 

The tornado outbreak in the southern US looks like it stayed far enough away from the Gulf Coast to spare the refineries in the area. The Alon refinery in Big Spring TX reported an operational issue that lasted more than 16 hours Monday, that ENT is reporting could end up causing extended downtime at that facility. While that plant is far from the Gulf Coast trading hub, downtime could add to the supply challenges to West Texas and surrounding markets.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Nov 30 2022

Week 48 - US DOE Inventory Recap