Sino-Russian Gas Deal, Ukrainian Post Election Violence, and Contracting US GDP Numbers - Oh My!

Posted by Kelly Burke on May 30, 2014 2:14:20 PM

 

Russian and Chinese leadership

(image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This week the market once again bounced around on conflicting data - likely to do with inventory numbers versus economic growth (actually a lack thereof), demand projections, Ukranian violence, and a whopper of a Nat Gas deal between Russia and China.  So much for a nice quiet 4 day week, hmm?

Internationally, Ukraine saw an explosion of fighting and casulties above and beyond what we have seen thus far in the wake of the Presidential election (which went to Petro Poroshenko, former foreign minister). Poroshenko reportedly stated he would deal with the rebel forces in "hours not months" and vowed Ukraine would refuse to aknowlege Russia's annexation of Crimea. Thursday the 29th saw helicopters shot down, killing 12 Ukrainian soldiers, and over 100 people killed in a second airport assault. Like we've talked about, bad news for Ukraine is bad news for Brent generally, and Thursday was no exception, it shot up over 35 cents on the ICE - but dropped back down today - it looks like it will settle the month out up 1.3% but down around 1% for this week. 

Russia and China signed a $400 Billion (with a B!) 30 year gas supply contract this past week as well. The Moscow newspapers claim the deal is not just about Ukraine (although they admit its a tipping point). Merryl Lynch's analysis is that the deal is a good move politically, but may not be the best business deal going. With the EU market shakier for Russia's Gazprom over Ukraine, and the EU also looking into alternate supply options/relaxing regulations, it may well prove to be a good deal in the long run business wise as well, though. The deal was also somewhat inevitable, given the Chinese demand levels and proximity. It also takes the wind out of Canada's LNG-exportation-to-Asia sails to some degree, or at least gets Russia ten steps ahead in the Asian markets. An unintended consquence for the EU though is that now they are under pressure to actually diversify supply, not just threaten to. Be careful what you wish for, right?

On our side of the pond, the news was more peaceful but not much more positive. The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its revised data on the US GDP for the first quarter of 2014. If you recall from our discussion last week, most people were not thrilled to hear the original number of GDP growth at 0.1% for Q1 - and now, the revised numbers actually show US GDP at -1.0%. Personal income and personal spending levels both barely increased at all (0.3 and 0.2%, respectively; and home sales fell 60% short of estimates. On the other hand, both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 hit all time highs. Go figure.

US Crude inventories were up again - but down again at Cushing, which should have supported (in theory) the current WTI pricing. Thursday saw prices up on the inventory news as traders zeroed in on Cushing levels, versus the overall supply increase. Distillate stocks were down and Gasoline supplies fell by 1.8 million barrels, despite expectations that we would see builds in the 200K barrel increase. This pushed gasoline up during trading yesterday, specifically on July trading, although at the close it crept down to only a 77 point gain. ULSD ended up closing down over a penny (-.0116), and both RBOB and ULSD are down today on demand expectations based on the horrendous GDP revised numbers published this week (more on that later). This number has an across the board impact because the US is the number one consumer of petroleum products, and a slow economy indicates lower demand and therefore lower prices. 

Essentially, it appears that because there are so many different factors at play domestically and abroad, they're sort of cancelling each other out (at least most days) and keeping pricing within the range we've been seeing for a while now. This will probably continue until either the US economy rebounds, the Ukrainian crisis abates, or some other wrench gets thrown into the mix. Stay tuned!

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Topics: CRUDE, RBOB, russia, ukraine,, EIA Inventories, Sino-Russian Gas Deal, Gazprom, Russian Chinese Gas Deal, US GDP

Libya, Labor Participation, & GDP Woes Keep NYMEX Positive Despite Projected Inventory Builds

Posted by Kelly Burke on May 20, 2014 2:26:19 PM

Line charts depicting the stock market scattered on a table

Analysts expect that the EIA report due out tommorow will show US Crude stocks hitting a new record high. So why isn't the market coming down?

For one, levels at Cushing (the NYMEX physical delivery point) have hit multiyear lows since the pipeline to the Gulf came online in January, which has an impact seperate from overall crude levels. WSJ cites some analysts who think Cushing could hit minimum operational levels, and thats keeping some skepticism in the market and supporting the price.

Secondly, international concerns are always a factor, and Europe is dealing with more than a few energy related headaches this week. Brent Crude is hanging in there at over $109, which is largely being blamed on the ongoing issues with Libya. Libyan production has been capped well below 2013 levels, and major oilfields remain closed down despite government promises they would be up and running by now.  Perhaps more of a dire sign for the area though -  France's major oil player in Libya, Total, has cut presence in the country down severely, and Algeria's Sonatrach has evacuuated their employees - both companies did so on security and safety concerns. Not good news for hopes that war torn Libya would be stepping back in as a major supply player anytime soon. 

Russia and Ukraine are still essentially in a standoff as well, with the usual reports of progress being made but none seeming to really materialize. 

On another note, Domestically, like we talked about before, the economic recovery picture is not looking particularly sunny. There is a lot of heated discussion about the "real" jobless numbers and the labor participation rate. At the start of the summer job season, the amount of people under 25 in the work force dropped almost half a million, and the unemployment rate for 16-19 year olds hit the second lowest number ever.  Additionally, the GDP is moving at a crawl, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated GDP grew 0.1% for Q1 of 2014 - not a great number in and of itself, but especially painful given that projections put it at a full 1%. Not very confidence inspiring, which tends to lend itself to higher commodities pricing (just ask a gold nut). 

 

 

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Topics: Brent Crude, Libya, CRUDE, russia, EIA Inventories

Commodities and Stocks See-Saw on Sanctions, EIA Numbers, Unemployment, and Tech Dissapointments

Posted by Kelly Burke on May 9, 2014 1:18:03 PM


Line charts depicting the stock market scattered on a table

Wednesday's EIA report showed that the API projected Crude drops come to fruition, falling 1.78 million barrels. As we all saw this pushed up Crude & ULSD prices on the day, with ULSD closing up .0398 to 2.9275, and Crude up to 100.81, once again hanging by the new (unfortunately) benchmark of $100 we've all been hoping to drop from for quite some time now. 

Brent ticked upwards this week as well on EU discussion of stricter sanctions on Russia. Putin had announced earlier this week that Russian troops had withdrawn from the border, but no such withdrawal happened according to everyone else in the area, so more sanctions are back on the table it appears. Economic sanctions on the world's second largest energy exporter are, unsurprisingly, not great for downward price pressure. 

In contrast to Crude - US Natural Gas inventory was up 94 bcf and prices dipped slightly. That sounds like good news after the supply crunch (not to mention spiking prices) of this past winter, and it is, but bear in mind prices are likely to remain relatively high for nat gas in the foreseeable future. Why? Because even with a build of 94 bcf, supplies are close to 45% lower than they were just a year ago today and the only demand control as supply limps back up is the price level, unfortunately. 

In the broader stock market, the S&P is poised for a weekly loss, largely due to drops in energy & utility shares. The DIJA dropped 4.1 percent in 5 days over tech stock dissapointments (ahem, Twitter & Groupon), and the Nasdaq dropped almost 2% as well. Last week stocks were up for the week minus a Friday drop off, which was a little unforseen because the weekly jobs report was strong (at least on the headline level).

April's Job numbers showed unemployment dropped to 6.3%, the lowest in 5 years. However, the margin of error for revision is pretty large on these reports of late, so there may be some hesitancy in the market until the "real" numbers materialize. Additionally, the work force participation rate dropped to 62.8%, tying the all time worst record from 1978 (also October and December of 2013).

There's been a lot of contradictory indicators as of late from different segments -  real estate, manufacturing, labor participation, and Jobless claim numbers, for example, that make it difficult to get a good overall picture of the economy. As they say, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, but who knows where that is.   

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Brent Crude, Inventory report, Jobless numbers, Crude draws, russia, ukraine,

WTI Drops Big (Again) on Expected Builds

Posted by Kelly Burke on Apr 22, 2014 2:53:08 PM

Barrel of oil with a line chart aiming up

Last week as we discussed, the EIA reports for the prior week (ending April 11) saw inventory builds in US Crude supplies while gasoline inventories drew down. Crude Inventories actually hit their highest level since June 2013 and production hit its highest level since 1988. 

Platt's is estimating that this Wednesdays EIA report (on the week ending April 18th) will show inventory builds of  up to10 million gallons. As a result of the anticipated build, WTI has dropped more than we've seen in the previous 3 months. Brent Crude, the European benchmark, wasn't quite so lucky.

Compared to WTI's over 2% drop, Brent was down less than one percent on continued Ukrainian tensions (stop me if you've heard this one before...) and on the heels of Vice President Biden's speech this morning in Kiev, in which he expressed US support for Ukraine. The sentiment, though true, wasn't very helpful for the already fragile (read: falling apart) agreements with Russia to reduce friction in the area, especially coming one day after Secretary Kerry demanded that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov control seperatist activity in Ukraine, with the Russians firing back that the US should intercede in to control "Ukrainian militia activity" in the region and today insisting that any agreements reached in Geneva "have nothing to do with us".  

The global headache that is Ukrainian/Russian/US relations at the moment would likely have resulted in a lot of market volatility and price spikes, but consistently increasing inventory levels have seemingly kept it at bay, particularly domestically. Hopefully that trend continues, and we start to see some progress towards resolution in Eastern Europe.

 

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Topics: EIA, Brent Crude, Brent vs WTI, Inventory report, russia, ukraine,, WTI Crude

Markets Up on Ukraine Tensions, Inventory Projections, and Chinese Economic Data

Posted by Kelly Burke on Apr 16, 2014 11:14:35 AM

World map with Ukraine and Russia highlighted

(Image Credit - Russavia [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Deja Vu - global oil prices are again creeping higher on increasing friction on the Ukraine-Russia standoff, projected inventory numbers, and Chinese economic numbers suggesting slower growth than anticipated. Didn't we just go through this two weeks ago??

Brent CRUDE hit over $110 Tuesday for the first time since March 4th on increasing concern over long term energy supply impacts of the mounting Ukrainian situation, and concerns of potential Western (US) interventions. Tuesday saw Ukranian troops clash with Russians at an occupied airport in Kramatorsk, about 100 miles from the Russian border - the first armed clash thus far in the ongoing power struggle. Tuesday also saw Ukranian troops headed toward the Russian border, counter to the tens of thousands of Russian troops reportedly stationed there. Concerns over potential Western response pushed stock markets lower, including the German DAX and Russian MICEX and pushed Brent and WTI prices up, with Brent hitting $110 as we mentioned, and WTI gaining to as much as 104.99 ahead of Inventory numbers due out later today. 

The primary cited reason for the jumps is the escalations in the Ukraine, but Chinese Economic data is also looking weaker than projected, with economic expansion numbers clocking in at the lowest we've seen in 6 quarters and falling short of the governments stated target of 7.5% growth. On the bright side, the Hariga port in Libya loaded for the first time in July when it was seized and shut down by rebels. 

Domestically, US inventories on gas are projected to show draws of up to 1.75 mb in Bloomberg estimates, while CRUDE is expected to show builds, and distillates are projected to be largely stable. It will be interesting to see how pricing plays out if the EIA report pulls the rug out from under the analysts like it did the last week of March.

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Topics: weekly inventory numbers, Chinese Industrial Output, russia, ukraine,

Surprise CRUDE Inventory Drops Catch Analysts Off Guard - but NYMEX Holds on to Week's Losses

Posted by Kelly Burke on Apr 2, 2014 3:01:39 PM

Line charts depicting the stock market scattered on a table

The EIA Inventory data out today showed that US Crude stocks unexpectedly fell 2.38 million barrels last week - if you remember, earlier this week, analysts were expecting roughly that amount of BUILD to be reported. Gulf Coast inventories had been expected to show a huge build but instead dropped by over a million barrels. On the other side, gasoline inventories dropped essentially in line with expectations, falling by a little over 1.5 million barrels. 

So what happened on Crude?

Consensus seems to be the main factor was the Houston shipping lane closure we discussed last week - the interruption likely caused higher draws than anticipated, primarily because it impacted imports to the Gulf during the shutdown, forcing refineries to pull off existing stock. This makes sense, as we saw a much larger reversal in inventory actuals versus expectations in the Gulf Coast region than generally.   

Despite the surprise inventory numbers, NYMEX futures are still trending down today. 

Interestingly, RBOB prices continue to trend downwards (although it pulled in mostly by the close) despite sustained and growing issues with ethanol supply, and a dramatic increase in its cost. Bloomberg reports that ethanol climbed 81% over the quarter, so even though RBOB is dropping on the screen, it's very unlikely consumers will see any real relief at the pump any time soon - at least until the supply and logistics issues spiking the price of ethanol subside.  

At the Close - ULSD settled -0.0212 to 2.8666, RBOB settled -0.0029 to 2.8668, and CRUDE settled out -0.12 to 99.62 

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Topics: EIA, Ethanol, CRUDE, NYMEX, Inventory Draws, Crude draws

Crude Continues to Drop on Supply Estimates & Manufacturing Speculations

Posted by Kelly Burke on Apr 1, 2014 1:44:21 PM

Crude - both Brent and WTI - continued to drop today on speculations of another inventory build on tommorows EIA report. According to a Bloomberg survey, tommorows report may show increases of 1.8mbl up to 2.5mbbl. The prior weeks report (the tenth increase in a row) indicated US Crude inventories climbed to 385 million barrels, the highest on hand since November, with PADD 3 numbers (Gulf Coast) hit over 200 million barrels, the highest since 1990. 

Additional domestic factors in the market drop is an anticipated failure of US Manufacturing increases to meet projected gains. Internationally, China is showing a drop in manufacturing index to below 50, signaling a contraction in the sector. Euro zone manufacturing is expected to show stagnant to weak numbers as well. Overall, global economic indicators are not very confidence inspiring, and in combination with increasing supply, and the impending end of the heating season in the US, we should see the market continue a downward trend, assuming EIA reports back speculative numbers. 

Last week's jobless numbers saw an unanticipated drop of 10,000 initial jobless claims. It will be interesting to see what this Friday's numbers look like - a continuing downward trend would be a positive economic sign, but time will tell what the overall impact will be. 

 

U.S. crude oil stocks graph

(Image Credit: EIA.gov)

 

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Topics: EIA, Brent Crude, Brent vs WTI, Jobless numbers, US Manufacturing Data, WTI Crude

Houston & Ukraine Concerns Drive Early Week's Market Swings

Posted by Kelly Burke on Mar 26, 2014 2:29:49 PM

 

Sinking barge

(USCG Photo/Reuters)

The first half of the week saw futures up and down on reactions to international tensions, and on the news of the 22nd’s collision between a bulk carrier and a barge resulting in the temporary closure of the Houston shipping channel connecting the Gulf of Mexico with Gulf Coast refineries. The collision resulted in a spill of up to 170,000 gallons of bunker fuel into Galveston Bay and caused immediate closure for cleanup operation, according to the AP in Houston. Tuesday saw the channel partially reopen, but the Coast Guard reported it would be an additional several days before it reopened to full capacity. About 10% of US refining capacity is based in the Gulf area. The positive news is that the channel will reopen relatively quickly and isn’t anticipated to have any long term price implications.

Of more concern for long term energy pricing is the growing and continued tension over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the potential impacts on the European energy situation that could hike prices significantly. We will likely see impact of US and/or G7 proposed sanctions begin to hit the markets this week or next, especially if significant action is taken on the proposed intervention on Russian oil nat & gas dependency, and on Emergency Funding measures for Ukraine. In the US, the Senate voted down the IMF/Ukraine Emergency fund Legislation presented on Tuesday, but another vote on the bill without the more controversial IMF reforms included is scheduled for Thursday, and according to both Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid, it is expected to pass both houses.


 

 
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Topics: Gulf Oil Leak, G7 summit,, Putin,, ukraine,, Houston Shipping Channel,

"Polar Vortex" saw Nat Gas hit Record Highs

Posted by Mark Pszeniczny on Jan 31, 2014 3:41:00 PM

Natural gas hit $5/mmBTU on the NYMEX for the first time in over 3 years last week, over concern about supply and a increase in demand due to to continuing frigid temperatures throughout the country. As of Jan 30, prices have backed off some but the underlying supply issues behind the spike may still play a relevant role in Nat Gas volatility going forward. 

The spike involved inventory reports showing Nat Gas storage 13% below the 5 year average which raised some supply concerns. Additionally, production can be affected by extreme cold by what are referred to as "freeze offs" - pipes become constricted from frozen liquid, diminishing their output capacity. Analysts speculated that if the cold extends well into February, we may not see the anticipated price corrections as continually high demand will push prices up further. Again, prices have backed off a little bit, but with another cold snap we could be having deja vu on the issue.

Natural Gas has been touted as a cheaper, more efficient way to heat than using heating oil (the EIA estimates 50% of Americans use Nat Gas as their primary heating source, compared to roughly 6% on heating oil, the majority of which are in the North East). A major selling point when heat prices skyrocketed was that Natural Gas prices were less volatile - but as Natural Gas conversions to homes and buildings happen left and right, and Nat Gas spikes on the NYMEX is that really true anymore?

Looking at prices for Nat Gas versus Heat isn't apples to apples given the way each is measured, but if you convert the cost for Natural Gas versus Heating Oil per therm you can get an idea of the comparison.  

You get about 35% more BTUs out of oil, so basically if Nat Gas ends up landing at a spot where its not at least 40% cheaper than oil, the price advantage breaks down. Additionally, thats product cost alone, not factoring utility fees and the like. 

Currently Natural Gas still strongly holds the price advantage, but without serious pipeline and transport fixes, supply crunches will likely continue - particularly in the Northeast where spot prices are incredibly higher than the national average. It will be interesting to see how prices settle out (or not) over the coming months.

 

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Topics: Commodities, natural gas, NYMEX

Futures Firm After Almost 2 Week Correction

Posted by Mark Pszeniczny on Jan 10, 2014 4:58:00 PM

NYMEX values appeared to find support just above the 2.90 level on front month HO after a long cold stretch.  The Polar Vortex that gripped a large portion of the Country, and plagued us in the Northeast with long terminal lines, appears to be subsiding.  Many of us are getting a well deserved breather as we return to somewhat normalcy.  

The recent correction has shaved off roughly 18 cents on Heat and close to .20 on RBOB.  Bulls returned as new unemployment figures were released showing that while the actual rate was down to 6.7%, the economy failed to add the expected 200k jobs in the last month.  Many point to the loss of December seasonal workers and the fact that more and more Americans have simply stopped looking for a job.  This caused the greenback to fall, thus pushing Commodities higher.  The new talk will ultimately put immediate pressure on new FED Chief Yellen and her stance on any new rate changes.  Strong foreign import data also put supported markets as China was said to have a nearly 14% increase in Crude over the last 30 days.  Look for next week to be a choppy session with HO testing and ultimately bouncing off the 2.90 mark.  

 

At the Close, Crude added  1.06 to close at 92.72, RBOB closed up .0265 at 2.6691, and heat settled out +.0193 at 2.9407

RBOB Close
                      CLOSE     CHANGE            
FEB   2.6691         +.0265
MAR   2.6797         +.0245
APR    2.8547         +.0217
MAY    2.8511         +.0207
JUN    2.8272         +.0202
             JUL    2.7949         +.0190     
HEAT Close
      CLOSE            CHANGE
FEB   2.9407        +.0193
MAR   2.9234        +.0180
     APR    2.9100        +.0167     
 MAY   2.9019        +.0159 
JUN   2.8968        +.0157
 JUL   2.8948        +.0153

 

 

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Topics: Commodities, Chinese Crude Builds, Dollar falls, Jobless numbers, CRUDE, FED rates, Yellen

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