Panic Has Crept In To Global Equity Markets

Market TalkThursday, Oct 11 2018
Panic Has Crept In To Global Equity Markets

For the first time since April a bit of panic has crept in to global equity markets and the ripple effects are being felt in the energy arena. The DJIA had its 3rd worst point drop in history Wednesday, wiping out nearly 2 months of gains, and several other indices have fallen below their 200 day moving averages for the first time in 6 months. Stock markets around the world caught the selling bug overnight and now US futures suggest the cycle may begin again today.

Energy markets have not been immune to the selling– as is often the case in a fear-driven market, correlations between asset-classes increases – setting up a pivotal test for oil prices to end the week. At this moment, both Brent and WTI are trading below the trend line that began almost 8 weeks ago, and if they can settle below it that would leave the door open to a test of the longer term trend some $5/barrel below current levels. If prices manage to bounce however, the past 2 days of selling will look more like an overdue correction for an overheated market, rather than a change in the trend.

The API did not offer any relief for energy bulls as it was reported to show a build of 9.7 million barrels in US oil inventories last week, along with a 3.3 million barrel build in gasoline stocks. If confirmed in today’s Columbus day-delayed DOE report, that would be the largest weekly increase in more than 1.5 years. Then again, last week’s DOE report showed a build that was 7 million barrels larger than the API’s report, so yesterday’s report could simply be the industry group’s data catching up to the government’s, and we may not see much of an increase at all today. We’ll find out at 11am Eastern.

Looking for a silver lining in the midst of the selling? The big declines have brought back the “Face-in-hand trader” one of the more beloved characters in modern headline literature.

It’s been a rough week for Canada Eh? With the country’s largest refinery closed due to an explosion and fire, Western Canadian Crude prices reaching 2 year lows at $27/barrel, then a major natural gas pipeline explosion that may cause power outages and refinery closures around the Pacific North West.

Those PNW refinery closures have sent prices in the region soaring, with RBOB values around Portland trading some 50 cents above NYMEX futures, which is dragging up gasoline values in California by 20-30 cents as replacement barrels will be needed from the south.

The damage assessments are beginning after the record-setting landfall of Hurricane Michael. While the damage is sure to be devastating in many ways, at this point it appears that the impacts to energy infrastructure are minimal.

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The Recovery Rally In Energy Markets Continues For A 3rd Day

The recovery rally in energy markets continues for a 3rd day with refined product futures both up more than a dime off of the multi-month lows we saw Wednesday morning. The DJIA broke 40,000 for the first time ever Thursday, and while it pulled back yesterday, US equity futures are suggesting the market will open north of that mark this morning, adding to the sends of optimism in the market.

Despite the bounce in the back half of the week, the weekly charts for both RBOB and ULSD are still painting a bearish outlook with a lower high and lower low set this week unless the early rally this morning can pick up steam in the afternoon. It does seem like the cycle of liquidation from hedge funds has ended however, so it would appear to be less likely that we’ll see another test of technical support near term after this bounce.

Ukraine hit another Russian refinery with a drone strike overnight, sparking a fire at Rosneft’s 240mb/day Tuapse facility on the black sea. That plant was one of the first to be struck by Ukrainian drones back in January and had just completed repairs from that strike in April. The attack was just one part of the largest drone attack to date on Russian energy infrastructure overnight, with more than 100 drones targeting power plants, fuel terminals and two different ports on the Black Sea. I guess that means Ukraine continues to politely ignore the White House request to stop blowing up energy infrastructure in Russia.

Elsewhere in the world where lots of things are being blown up: Several reports of a drone attack in Israel’s largest refining complex (just under 200kbd) made the rounds Thursday, although it remains unclear how much of that is propaganda by the attackers and if any impact was made on production.

The LA market had 2 different refinery upsets Thursday. Marathon reported an upset at the Carson section of its Los Angeles refinery in the morning (the Carson facility was combined with the Wilmington refinery in 2019 and now reports as a single unit to the state, but separately to the AQMD) and Chevron noted a “planned” flaring event Thursday afternoon. Diesel basis values in the region jumped 6 cents during the day. Chicago diesel basis also staged a recovery rally after differentials dropped past a 30 cent discount to futures earlier in the week, pushing wholesale values briefly below $2.10/gallon.

So far there haven’t been any reports of refinery disruptions from the severe weather than swept across the Houston area Thursday. Valero did report a weather-related upset at its Mckee refinery in the TX panhandle, although it appears they avoided having to take any units offline due to that event.

The Panama Canal Authority announced it was increasing its daily ship transit level to 31 from 24 as water levels in the region have recovered following more than a year of restrictions. That’s still lower than the 39 ships/day rate at the peak in 2021, but far better than the low of 18 ships per day that choked transit last year.

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

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Energy Prices Found A Temporary Floor After Hitting New Multi-Month Lows Wednesday

Energy prices found a temporary floor after hitting new multi-month lows Wednesday morning as a rally to record highs in US equity markets and a modestly bullish DOE report both seemed to encourage buyers to step back into the ring.

RBOB and ULSD futures both bounced more than 6 cents off of their morning lows, following a CPI report that eased inflation fears and boosted hopes for the stock market’s obsession of the FED cutting interest rates. Even though the correlation between energy prices and equities and currencies has been weak lately, the spillover effect on the bidding was clear from the timing of the moves Wednesday.

The DOE’s weekly report seemed to add to the optimism seen in equity markets as healthy increases in the government’s demand estimates kept product inventories from building despite increased refinery runs.

PADD 3 diesel stocks dropped after large increases in each of the past 3 weeks pushed inventories from the low end of their seasonal range to average levels. PADD 2 inventories remain well above average which helps explain the slump in mid-continent basis values over the past week. Diesel demand showed a nice recovery on the week and would actually be above the 5 year average if the 5% or so of US consumption that’s transitioned to RD was included in these figures.

Gasoline inventories are following typical seasonal patterns except on the West Coast where a surge in imports helped inventories recover for a 3rd straight week following April’s big basis rally.

Refiners for the most part are also following the seasonal script, ramping up output as we approach the peak driving demand season which unofficially kicks off in 10 days. PADD 2 refiners didn’t seem to be learning any lessons from last year’s basis collapse and rapidly increased run rates last week, which is another contributor to the weakness in midwestern cash markets. One difference this year for PADD 2 refiners is the new Transmountain pipeline system has eroded some of their buying advantage for Canadian crude grades, although those spreads so far haven’t shrunk as much as some had feared.

Meanwhile, wildfires are threatening Canada’s largest oil sands hub Ft. McMurray Alberta, and more than 6,000 people have been forced to evacuate the area. So far no production disruptions have been reported, but you may recall that fires in this region shut in more than 1 million barrels/day of production in 2016, which helped oil prices recover from their slump below $30/barrel.

California’s Air Resources Board announced it was indefinitely delaying its latest California Carbon Allowance (CCA) auction – in the middle of the auction - due to technical difficulties, with no word yet from the agency when bidders’ security payments will be returned, which is pretty much a nice microcosm for the entire Cap & Trade program those credits enable.

Click here to download a PDF of today's TACenergy Market Talk, including all charts from the Weekly DOE Report.

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