January CPI Applies Downward Pressure On Energy Futures

Market TalkTuesday, Feb 14 2023
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Energy markets were mixed overnight with diesel prices continuing to rally after a healthy bounce in Monday’s session, while gasoline and crude oil prices had modest losses. The sellers stepped in more eagerly after the latest read on inflation suggests that the FED has more work to, not less, in order to tame prices.

January’s CPI report showed inflation at .5% for the month and 6.4% for the past year, which was slightly higher than the “official” estimates, and we saw some modest selling of 2-3 cents in refined products in the 10 minutes following that report, which temporarily wiped out the gains in ULSD.  Equities have been choppy in the wake of the report as well, so we could be in for yet another back-and-forth trading session.

Monday saw a pullback in oil prices after the White House announced another sale of crude oil from the SPR of 26 million barrels, equivalent to about 1.5 days’ worth of domestic demand. The latest sale, after the SPR has already been drawn down to its lowest level in 40 years, is not part of a new strategy to lower prices, but rather part of a congressional mandate made years ago that’s still being enforced.

OPEC’s monthly oil market report kept estimates for global oil supply & demand unchanged from last month but noted that stronger than expected economic activity to end 2022 in several key economies. The cartel’s oil output ticked lower by 49,000 barrels/day during January with cuts by Saudi Arabia and Iraq offsetting increases in Nigeria, Venezuela, Angola and Kuwait.  The report also highlighted the substantial strengthening of refinery margins last month and predicts that global output will continue to drop in the next month due to heavy maintenance, much of which was deferred last year during the record margin environment.

The EIA’s monthly drilling productivity report forecasts that oil and gas production will increase in all of the major shale basins across the US in March, even though rates for new wells and legacy production are both seeing year on year declines. The count of drilled but uncompleted (DUC) wells is also increasing, which bodes well for the predictions that US oil production will reach a record this year, even though rates are still about a million barrels/day below pre-pandemic levels.

Israel is exporting its first crude oil cargo ever, as development of new offshore fields in the Mediterranean progress thanks to an agreement on territorial boundaries brokered last year.  More output from the Lebanese side of the boundary is expected to come online later this year, offering some much-needed alternatives for European buyers.   

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Market Talk Update 02.14.2023

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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