Refined Product Prices Are Tumbling Wednesday After RBOB Prices Extended Their Winning Streak To 7 Days Tuesday

Market TalkWednesday, Mar 20 2024
Pivotal Week For Price Action

Refined product prices are tumbling Wednesday after RBOB prices extended their winning streak to 7 days Tuesday, reaching a fresh 6 month high, while WTI also set a new 5-month high mark. ULSD futures are once again leading the move lower and are down more than a dime in the past two days, while gasoline prices are down a nickel in the early going. At this point the pullback looks more technical in nature, as short-term indicators had reached deep into overbought territory during the run-up, and not the result of any news in particular.

The Department of Energy updated its Fuel Economy calculation for EV’s Tuesday, which is apparently step 1 of a 4 part energy plan by the administration to walk the tightrope of constituents this election year. On one hand, there’s a “gotcha” moment for EV haters since the rule reduces the calculated fuel economy of an Electric Vehicle by 65%. On the other hand, by reducing the EV calculations, the DOE is also forcing auto-makers to be more efficient with their other vehicles since the EVs they produce will no longer bring down the fleet’s average efficiency by as much as it did under the old method. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, you can read the entire 77 page explanation here.

The API reported that both gasoline and crude oil inventories dropped by 1.5 million barrels last week, while distillates increased by just over ½ million barrels. The DOE’s report is due out at its normal time today, with refinery runs still the important number to watch as BP is reportedly fully back online at Whiting, while several Gulf Coast plants still struggle to recover from a busy maintenance season and numerous unplanned upsets. It’s probably too soon to see any impact on the Russian export flows in the DOE’s report, but diesel exports in particular will be a number to watch in the coming weeks as buyers like Brazil are expected to return to the USGC after taking advantage of disadvantaged Russian supplies for more than a year.

The FOMC will give their latest monetary policy update at 1pm today, and pretty much nobody expects them to announce a change in interest rates today. The CME’s Fedwatch tool shows that traders give 99% probability of no change at today’s meeting, which leaves the big question on what the FED will foreshadow for the rest of the year. At this point, 95% odds are given of no change at the May 1 meeting, and 64% odds are given that the first rate cut will be announced June 12. With inflation creeping back recently, and fuel prices now adding to the increase after a year of pulling prices lower, traders seem to be on edge that the FOMC may signal a later date to start cutting rates.

The EIA this morning highlighted the growth in Intrastate natural gas pipelines in recent years, with both Texas and Louisiana taking advantage of their unique combination of production and coastal access to avoid federal red tape.

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Market Talk Update 3.20.2024

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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.

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

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.

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, Apr 10 2024

Week 14 - US DOE Inventory Recap