Volatility And Uncertainty Continue Dominant Market Themes After Weekend Of Extraordinary Intervention By Central Banks

Market TalkMonday, Mar 20 2023
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Volatility and uncertainty continue to be the dominant market themes after another weekend of extraordinary intervention by central banks to try and limit the fallout of the latest crisis of confidence in the system. 

We’ve already seen big swings in both energy and equity markets in the overnight sessions.  Bulls seem to be arguing that the coordinated actions by central banks and some of the world’s largest financial institutions are proving there will not be a liquidity crisis, while the bears seem to be saying, “If everything is fine, why did two of Europe’s largest banks just get forced into a shotgun wedding?”

Refined product prices dropped 9 cents at their lowest levels, but have since wiped out those losses and turned to modest gains in yet another sign of the choppy action that’s likely in the days ahead. WTI meanwhile set a fresh 15-month low before recovering most of its losses on the day, and charts suggest we could soon see prices in the $50 range if a recovery rally doesn’t come soon.

The CFTC announced Friday it was further delaying its Commitments of Traders reports as it needed to review the data after the cyber-attack that took out a service provider and has kept the position reporting at least 3 weeks behind schedule since early February. ICE continues to publish its weekly COT data on a normal schedule, and showed money managers bailing out of long positions in Brent and Gasoil contracts last week as prices plummeted, and a large amount of new speculative money came in to bet that prices would continue to fall, even though they’re already at 15-month lows. Given the price action we’ve seen in NYMEX contracts the past two weeks, it’s not hard to imagine a similar liquidation of long positions has been going on here as well.

Fed Fund futures traders are laying 37% odds the FOMC will stop their rate hikes this week, while 63% think they’ll continue to increase rates by 25 points according to the CME’s Fed watch tool. Two weeks ago, literally, no money was bet on the FED holding steady. The forward outlook shows that nearly 30% of the money is betting the FOMC will be lowering rates by the June meeting, compared to 0% betting that direction a month ago.

Baker Hughes reported US Oil rigs dropped by 1 last week to a new 9-month low, while natural gas rigs jumped by 9, setting a new 6-month high. That dichotomy was most obvious in the Eagle Ford basin where 6 oil rigs were taken offline, while 4 new gas rigs were added. The Marcellus shale accounted for the remainder of the increase in gas rigs, while the Permian saw a healthy increase of 5 oil rigs negated by the drop elsewhere.

Both Flint Hills and Citgo reported upsets at their Corpus Christi refineries Friday, following the cold front that battered the region with high winds and heavy rain Thursday. The filings made to the TCEQ suggest Citgo may have been forced to take an FCC unit offline, while FHR may have avoided any unit shutdowns during their event. Neither issue is likely to have much influence on Gulf Coast spot markets since Corpus Christi plants don’t touch the Colonial pipeline origin hubs, but they could create product tightness along the San Antonio, Austin, and DFW corridor if they continue.

More French refinery workers are walking off the job this week after pension reforms were passed by parliament last week. The impact of the protests may now turn from a nuisance to a more serious disruption as more facilities are expected to be taken offline.  

A worker at the CVR refinery in Coffeyville Kansas was killed over the weekend, as that facility was undergoing planned maintenance. No reports yet as to the cause of that incident, or the potential long-term impact.

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

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Market TalkFriday, May 17 2024

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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Market TalkThursday, May 16 2024

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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Week 19 - US DOE Inventory Recap