Top End Of Trading Range Tested

Market TalkWednesday, Nov 11 2020
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WTI and ULSD futures came close to reaching eight month highs overnight before sellers stepped in, cutting back the gains nearly in half for the day in the past couple of hours. This test of the top end of the trading range that’s held prices since June should be pivotal for price action through the end of year that can’t seem to end fast enough.  

Bullish supply data from the API and DOE are getting credit for the early strength, adding to the rally built earlier this week on hopes of a demand recovery once the new vaccine can put COVID economic destruction in the rear-view-mirror.  

If the top side of the trading range breaks, there’s an easy 10-20 cents of upside potential for refined products, and we could see WTI pushing towards $50/ barrel in short order. If the chart resistance can continue to repel this rally however, we may be due for another pullback and an extension of the sideways trading.

The API reported large inventory draws across the board last week with oil stocks down 5.1 million barrels, diesel down 5.6 million barrels and gasoline stocks down 3.3 million barrels.  The DOE weekly report will be released tomorrow since the U.S. is celebrating Veteran’s Day today. OPEC’s monthly report is due out later this morning, and the IEA’s monthly report will be released tomorrow. 

The DOE/EIA’s monthly Short Term Energy Outlook had much more of the same uncertainty surrounding COVID and its impact on fuel demand and prices. The government’s energy reporting agency (via the company it hires to provide forecasting, that also sells pricing subscription services) was forecasting that Brent crude prices will hover around $40 for the remainder of this year before averaging $47 next year, which suggests the report was written prior to Monday’s vaccine announcement which has Brent already close to $45. One interesting and unusual item noted in this month’s report was the extraordinary put-call ratio in RBOB gasoline for next spring, suggesting that perhaps…“market participants are hedging against a potential continuation of economic effects of COVID-19 into the 2021 summer driving season.”    

The report also highlights a big drawdown in distillate inventories, which had their largest monthly decline in nearly a decade. A combination of factors such as refinery downtime both planned for fall turnarounds and unplanned due to storms, along with a higher than normal starting balance and sharp recovery in demand all contributed to those inventory declines. While several regional markets in the Western half of the country are seeing tight rack supplies of diesel as a result of this, overall refinery margins have not yet recovered much and remain at about half of the levels we came to expect pre-COVID.   

Eta regained hurricane strength this morning, but its forecasted path has shifted back to the east, and it’s now expected to make landfall north of Tampa tomorrow afternoon. The shift keeps the storm away from oil production and refining assets in the gulf coast, and given its relative lack of strength, it should not be a major supply disrupter, although Tampa Bay port operations may be delayed for a couple of days. The new path also gives the storm yet another chance to reform over open water as it should reach the Atlantic sometime Friday.

Meanwhile, the 30th named storm of the season now has 80% odds of developing in the Caribbean in the next five days. 

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Market TalkFriday, May 24 2024

Selling Continues In Energy Markets After Thursday's Reversal Rally Ran Out Of Steam In The Afternoon

The selling continues in energy markets after Thursday’s reversal rally ran out of steam in the afternoon, following the lead of U.S. equity markets which had a big sell-off on the day. Prices haven’t yet fallen below the multi-month lows we saw early last week, but we’re just a couple of cents away from those levels, and the potential technical trapdoor that could lead to sharply lower values over the next couple of weeks.

We did see a brief spike in gasoline futures after the settlement Thursday following reports that Colonial had shut down Line 4 due to an IT issue, but those gains were short-lived as the pipeline was restarted without issue a few hours later. Those who remember the chaos of May 2021 after Colonial was hacked are breathing a sigh of relief, particularly on one of the busiest demand days of the year, while others are no doubt disappointed we won’t get to see the rash of fake photos of people filling up plastic bags with gasoline.

OPEC & Friends (AKA the DoC) announced they’re moving June’s policy meeting to a virtual-only affair, which the market is taking as a signal of the status quo being held on output cuts.

Chicago being Chicago: Tuesday’s 60-cent basis spike was officially wiped out by Thursday afternoon, suggesting the short-lived rally was just short covering in an illiquid market rather than a meaningful supply disruption.

RIN values continued their rally this week, touching a 4-month high at 59 cents/RIN for both D4 and D6 values Thursday. If you believe in technical analysis on something like RINs, you can see a “W” pattern formed on the charts, suggesting a run to the 80-cent range is coming if prices can get above 60. If you are more of a fundamentalist, then you’ll probably think this rally is probably more short-term short-covering by producers of RD who have changed their schedule buying back their RIN hedges for volume they’re no longer planning to produce.

NOAA issued its most aggressive Hurricane forecast ever Thursday, joining numerous other groups that think a La Nina pattern and record warm waters will create more and bigger storms this year. With the activity level seeming to be a foregone conclusion at this point, now it’s all about where those storms hit to know if this busy season will be a huge factor in energy supplies like we saw in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2017. With the Houston area already being bombarded by floods and deadly wind this year, the refinery row across the U.S. Gulf Coast seems even more vulnerable than normal to the effects of a storm.

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

Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkThursday, May 23 2024

Gasoline Prices Have Finally Found A Bid, Trading Up 3 Cents On The Day

Gasoline prices have finally found a bid, trading up 3 cents on the day after coming within a penny and a quarter of the multi-month lows set last week overnight. ULSD prices are also up a couple of cents in the early going after wiping out the gains they made last week. Both contracts are once again threatening a technical breakdown that could push prices another 20-30 cents lower if the current bounce isn’t sustained.

The EIA’s estimate for gasoline demand surged to a 7-month high last week, capping off a 4th straight week of gains that puts total consumption near the top end of the seasonal range after a very sluggish start to the year. AAA estimates that travel this Memorial Day weekend will approach a 20 year high with nearly 44 million people hitting the roads.

The EIA also published a note this morning showing average US gasoline prices are up 1% from last year, accompanied by a chart showing that average prices are down 7 cents/gallon from this time last year. The spread between retail gasoline prices on the West Coast vs the rest of the country continues to grow and is shown to be over $1.20/gallon thanks to Oregon and Washington’s Californication of their energy policies in recent years.

The EIA still seems to be struggling to figure out its accounting methods for crude oil inventories, with the adjustment factor that’s been creating all sorts of confusion the past couple of years flipping from a negative 200,000 barrels/day last week, to a positive 1.4 million barrels/day this week. You could give the EIA compilation crew a break and say that this reflects just how large and complex the US crude oil supply network is, or you could ask how did they suddenly “find” 10-million barrels of oil that they didn’t see last week.

Refiners are cranking up run rates, exceeding the levels we’ve seen this time of year in either of the past 2 years. Those higher run rates are added to the glut of diesel products that’s hanging over the majority of the country, and pushing rack spreads to levels we haven’t seen since the COVID lockdown in several markets.

The export market for US crude and refined products remains very busy with nearly 10 million barrels shipped out of the country every day. Refinery throughput was 16.2 million barrels/day last week, and more than 6 million barrels/day was exported even though gasoline and diesel exports have stagnated this year. The anticipated tick higher in US diesel exports following the rash of Russian refinery attacks has not materialized, which is no doubt contributing to the negative sentiment for diesel prices over the past month. The busy and growing export market for crude and other products also creates an interesting dynamic as we prepare for a busy hurricane season to kick off in a week as any disruption to infrastructure along the Gulf Coast could limit product going out of the country almost as much as it disrupts products flowing inland.

Basis values for RBOB in Chicago dropped 30 cents Wednesday after Tuesday’s 60 cent spike. It’s still unclear what if any impacts the confirmed fire at Exxon’s Joliet refinery, or the rumored upsets at BP’s Whiting facility have had on actual supply in the region, but the quick pullback suggests this is a flash in the pan rather than the start of a prolonged supply shortage.

Exxon reported a leak at its Beaumont TX Chemical plant, but it appears that upset isn’t impacting the operations at its adjacent refinery.

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, May 22 2024

Week 20 - US DOE Inventory Recap