U.S. Equity Markets Rally To Record Highs

Market TalkTuesday, Dec 29 2020
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U.S. equity markets are rallying to new record highs this week, and energy markets are trying to follow them as trading winds down for this most unusual year.

The house of representatives approved an increase in stimulus checks, sending that bill to the Senate today for approval. The House also voted to override the president’s veto of the latest defense spending bill, encouraging markets that the dollar printing presses won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Extra liquidity/aka stimulus pushes down the value of the dollar, which is correlating to stronger commodity prices, a phenomenon that had gone largely dormant, but was a major force in markets for years following the 2008 financial crisis.

While the news from Washington has Wall Street in Risk On mode, the reaction so far in energy markets is relatively muted with the complex seeming to have entered a period of sideways trading after seven weeks of gains. Most technical indicators have moved into neutral territory, which should keep the action choppy but aimless until we see the range set over the past week broken. For WTI that’s a move above $49 or below $46.  For RBOB gasoline that will mean a break above $1.40 or below $1.30, and for ULSD the range seems to be set from $1.42 to $1.52.

Numerous mobility tracking data sets have become popular since the start of COVID-related shutdowns and the driving-specific data points have become a decent proxy for gasoline demand.  The 2 charts below show both the seasonal slowdown, and the near-halt in movement over Christmas.  The second chart also shows how two major metro areas (LA and Dallas Counties) see similar trajectories, but different demand outlooks based on their stay-at-home orders, or lack thereof. 

Money managers continued to increase their bets on higher gasoline and crude oil prices last week according to the CFTC’s weekly report, but cut their length in diesel contracts. The net length held by the large speculative category of traders reached their highest levels since COVID hit the U.S. In other words, hedge funds like betting on higher gasoline prices when RBOB is trading around $1.40 than they did in April when prices were trading below $.50, or at the start of November when they were sub $1.

There’s a similar bullish enthusiasm being noted in U.S. equity markets as borrowing to invest reaches new records even after many stocks are already trading at all-time highs. This type of sentiment extreme can be seen as a contrary indicator since at some point the market runs out of new money to keep pushing prices higher, and leveraged liquidation can be particularly volatile. 

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TACenergy MarketTalk 122920

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Market TalkFriday, Jul 19 2024

Summertime-Friday-Apathy Trade Influencing Energy Markets

Energy markets are treading water to start the day as the Summertime-Friday-Apathy trade seems to be influencing markets around the world in the early going. RBOB futures are trying for a 3rd straight day of gains to wipe out the losses we saw to start the week, while ULSD futures continue to look like the weak link, trading lower for a 2nd day and down nearly 3 cents for the week.

Bad to worse: Exxon’s Joliet refinery remains offline with reports that repairs may take through the end of the month. On top of that long delay in restoring power to the facility, ENT reported this morning that the facility has leaked hydrogen fluoride acid gas, which is a dangerous and controversial chemical used in alkylation units. Chicago basis values continue to rally because of the extended downtime, with RBOB differentials approaching a 50-cent premium to futures, which sets wholesale prices just below the $3 mark, while ULSD has gone from the weakest in the country a month ago to the strongest today. In a sign of how soft the diesel market is over most of the US, however, the premium commanded in a distressed market is still only 2 cents above prompt futures.

The 135mb Calcasieu Refinery near Lake Charles LA has been taken offline this morning after a nearby power substation went out, and early reports suggest repairs will take about a week. There is no word yet if that power substation issue has any impacts on the nearby Citgo Lake Charles or P66 Westlake refineries.

Two tanker ships collided and caught fire off the coast of Singapore this morning. One ship was a VLCC which is the largest tanker in the world capable of carrying around 2 million barrels. The other was a smaller ship carrying “only” 300,000 barrels (roughly 12 million gallons) of naphtha. The area is known for vessels in the “dark fleet” swapping products offshore to avoid sanctions, so a collision isn’t too surprising as the vessels regularly come alongside one another, and this shouldn’t disrupt other ships from transiting the area.

That’s (not) a surprise: European auditors have determined the bloc’s green hydrogen goals are unattainable despite billions of dollars of investment, and are based on “political will” rather than analysis. Also (not) surprising, the ambitious plans to build a “next-gen” hydrogen-powered refinery near Tulsa have been delayed.

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Market TalkThursday, Jul 18 2024

Refined Products Stanch Bleeding Despite Inventory Builds And Demand Slump

Refined products are trading slightly lower to start Thursday after they stopped the bleeding in Wednesday’s session, bouncing more than 2 cents on the day for both RBOB and ULSD, despite healthy inventory builds reported by the DOE along with a large slump in gasoline demand.

Refinery runs are still above average across the board but were pulled in PADD 3 due to the short-term impacts of Beryl. The Gulf Coast region is still outpacing the previous two years and sitting at the top end of its 5-year range as refiners in the region play an interesting game of chicken with margins, betting that someone else’s facility will end up being forced to cut rates before theirs.

Speaking of which, Exxon Joliet was reportedly still offline for a 3rd straight day following weekend thunderstorms that disrupted power to the area. Chicago RBOB basis jumped by another dime during Wednesday’s session as a result of that downtime. Still, that move is fairly pedestrian (so far) in comparison to some of the wild swings we’ve come to expect from the Windy City. IIR via Reuters reports that the facility will be offline for a week.

LA CARBOB differentials are moving in the opposite direction meanwhile as some unlucky seller(s) appear to be stuck long and wrong as gasoline stocks in PADD 5 reach their highest level since February, and held above the 5-year seasonal range for a 4th consecutive week. The 30-cent discount to August RBOB marks the biggest discount to futures since 2022.

The EIA Wednesday also highlighted its forecast for rapid growth in “Other” biofuels production like SAF and Renewable Naptha and Propane, as those producers capable of making SAF instead of RD can add an additional $.75/gallon of federal credits when the Clean Fuels Producer’s Credit takes hold next year. The agency doesn’t break out the products between the various “Other” renewable fuels, but the total projected output of 50 mb/day would amount to roughly 2% of total Jet Fuel production if it was all turned to SAF, which of course it won’t as the other products come along for the ride similar to traditional refining processes.

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Pivotal Week For Price Action
Market TalkWednesday, Jul 17 2024

Week 28 - US DOE Inventory Recap