Demand Concerns Temper Prices Despite Supply Crunch

Posted by Kelly Burke on Oct 19, 2021 10:31:38 AM

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Oil prices are continuing to slide back down some after multiyear highs last week. (At time of writing at 10 this morning, both refined products are trending down)

All of the issues with energy supply and labor shortages are still in play (obviously) so what’s going on?

The other side of the coin – demand, is once again raising concerns and tempering some of the bullishness on the markets.

The US reported lower industrial output for September, which is dampening enthusiasm over economic rebound and rising demand in the industrial sector. A large factor in play in the lower U.S. numbers is the continuing (worsening?) global semiconductor shortage. The lack of availability is severely hampering production and availability of motor vehicles and slowing progress on large scale tech projects.

Additionally, China’s data did not do much to allay demand fears, third quarter economic growth hit a low for the year, as did daily Crude processing levels. China’s lackluster reports are largely due to supply bottlenecks and shortages like the US data is.

As mentioned however, seasonal supply concerns for the upcoming winter, labor shortages (particularly in the trucking industry), generally positive economic rebound, OPEC cuts, and an uncertain trajectory for COVID-19 cases as we enter the flu season are still all factors very much in play in the markets, all of which we would normally expect to push prices higher.

So the ongoing question becomes which way the pendulum will swing between the supply issues and the demand requirements. Supply (at the moment) is what it is, the major variable is whether demand moves up and forces supply crunch related price hikes, or if the labor situation and slowing economic growth drop the demand enough overall to drop prices in the longer term.

All that being said – make hay while the sun shines as they say. Not a bad time to lock a prompt in case tomorrow flips the screens positive again.

Stay Tuned!

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Topics: OPEC, china, covid-19, labor shortage

Spiking Prices & Labor Shortages Complicate Energy Outlook

Posted by Kelly Burke on Oct 13, 2021 3:57:06 PM

Lots of interconnected events in Energy News this past week or so – we’ll run through and touch on some of the major items and attempt to keep it (relatively) brief.

Here we go:

US Crude Oil prices hit $80 Monday for the first time in 7 years, largely on the basis of surging demand and simultaneous supply issues for power & gas globally, particularly in China, India and Europe.

Last week we saw Natural Gas hit historic highs of $185 per mwh on the supply crunch, although prices have backed off highs this week upon the announcement from Russia’s Vladimir Putin that Gazprom would increase output to Europe to help ease their supply woes.

Speaking of Putin, he went on record Wednesday that he believes Oil could reach the $100/bbl mark (again). OPEC+ (which includes Russia) has been resistant to calls to up their production increases, choosing instead to stick with the previously agreed upon increases.

The Biden Administration has reportedly been relaying their concerns about rising energy costs to unnamed OPEC+ senior officials, and more publicly has called on oil producing nations to “do more” to up supply in order to ease price increases and global supply issues. So far they have not been successful, largely because longer term economic and demand growth numbers don’t look exceptionally promising, so OPEC+ member nations are unwilling to jump up supply to ease pricing when the longer term demand required to keep pricing reasonably benchmarked does not appear to be there.

Additionally, Reuters is reporting  this afternoon that the White House has been speaking with domestic producers about helping to bring down costs. It’s unclear exactly what they are hoping for on that front, or what may have been discussed specifically.

Gasoline in the US is at a 7 year high (averaging $3.29) and the EIA Short Term Energy Outlook reporting this morning indicated that consumers can also expect to pay substantially more for energy this winter

(you can read that report here: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/WinterFuels.php)

Domestic output has not rebounded to pre pandemic levels, and is well off from 2019 highs. In addition, the surge in natural gas pricing means dual fueled power generation systems are likely to be looking at diesel to offset some of the cost this winter. This is what helped dampen prices on Crude & Diesel today somewhat – Crude demand will exceed earlier expectations if power generation does in fact move toward a more diesel heavy mix than we see in a typical winter…. Theoretically.

One of the factors we will need to see play out however, is that increased diesel demand is all well and good, but the ongoing (and apparently worsening) labor issues in the United States may complicate that option. The driver shortage is impacting delivery times and logistics across the country, nowhere is that more clear than the ports. The Biden Administration just announced the Port in Los Angeles will run 24/7 in order to attempt to catch up with backlogged demand and offload stranded container ships. The problem however, is these are backlogged in the first place because of labor & driver shortages, so it isn’t clear how effectively 24 hour runs will solve the backlog. The news is warning of transportation issues already ahead of the holiday shopping season rush, so the lingering question becomes how well will transportation companies and fleets be able to pivot and meet demands with the pressure of labor shortages on their backs, if in fact they continue. 

At the end of the day, lots of news directly or indirectly impacting the energy markets the last few weeks, most of it less than optimistic. However, its worth remembering that we’ve seen supply crunches, or demand outlook changes, or OPEC pivots, or US Presidents’ remarks rile up the markets and send the news analysts into a tailspin, only to resolve themselves in the short term a million times. As always, it ain’t over til it’s over, and we will have to see the longer-term implications of the multiple competing factors currently at play.

Stay Tuned!

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Topics: natural gas, EIA, OPEC, Biden Administration, labor shortage

NYMEX flirts with Double Digit Increases on Vaccine Approval, Weaker Dollar

Posted by Kelly Burke on Aug 23, 2021 1:33:20 PM

Oil prices reversed their 7 day losing streak this morning. Last week WTI shed 9% to hit multi-month lows, and this morning it rebounded up to 5% on intraday trading.

Refined products are up huge with both products flirting with double digit increases. At time of writing (1:30pm), refined products were up substantially, with ULSD up $.0997 Sept, $.1001 OCT and Gasoline up $.0937 SEPT, $.0926 OCT. Additionally, WTI is up over the $65/bbl benchmark at $65.68 (+3.54).

The causes are being cited as both a weaker dollar (it's down from highs on Friday) and FDA full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for everyone aged 16 and over (versus the Emergency Use Approval it has had since December). There is some hope that full FDA approval will quell some skepticism and lead to higher overall vaccination rates among eligible people. 

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One of the major factors that has been weighing on commodities (as discussed) has been the looming threat of shut downs and travel restrictions that would continue to effect demand in the event that COVID has a resurgence from the delta variant. 

It would seem, however, that approval of the vaccine may not be a valid reason to fully discard those demand concerns in the longer term. After all, we are seeing some restrictions being placed in China and other countries regarding travel. Additionally, supply levels are high, and Baker Hughes indicated a higher domestic rig count last week which indicates further upticks in production (despite demand lowering). 

On the other hand, full approval may signal to markets that shut downs will not be an inevitability and thus the demand hiccups we are seeing will be shorter term than has been priced in so far. 

As usual, we will have to wait and see.  

Stay Tuned! 

 

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Topics: WTI Crude, covid-19, vaccine

Uptick in COVID Cases & Strengthening Dollar Push Prices Down

Posted by Kelly Burke on Aug 19, 2021 2:59:21 PM

Ramped up COVID cases and a stronger dollar pushed oil prices down today - intraday prices had Crude down to 3 month lows (off 4%) . Refined products tanked as well, lunchtime saw ULSD off almost 7 cents (.0674) and RBOB off .0868 on front month trading. 

At the close, the losses pared somewhat with ULSD settling at 1.9690 (-.0522) and RBOB at 2.0815 (-.0662) for September contract. (ULSD 1.9714 and RBOB 1.9525 for OCT). WTI Crude settled out at 63.69/bbl.

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As discussed previously, the uptick in COVID cases has been making traders (and the rest of us!) nervous, particularly as it relates to economic growth and demand slippage.  Goldman Sachs has revised projections for third quarter GDP down in anticipation of Delta variant induced economic slowing. 

In addition, although demand outlooks are lower, it looks extremely unlikely that OPEC+ will walk back their recent production increases, as despite prices slipping, they are still at a profitable level for member nations (at least for the time being). 

The paring of losses we saw on the screen as the afternoon wore on were largely the result of the US Dollar strengthening. Somewhat ironically, the dollar is strengthening largely because of indications from the Fed that stimulus measures put in place to mitigate COVID impacts will be phasing out over the coming year. 

So on one side, the dollar is stronger on phasing out COVID measures and on the other, demand outlook is weaker on the back of rising COVID cases, and both of those factors are dropping prices. Riddle me that. 

The other wildcard in play generally with the markets is the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have (re)seized control of the nation. It is unclear for the moment what the longer term impacts will be both on the region and internationally. That is true both in terms of the markets and how the international handling of the humanitarian crisis unfolding develops . We will keep an eye on that developing situation. 

Stay tuned!

 

 

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Topics: OPEC, covid-19, Afghanistan

High Outputs, High Case Numbers, and Low Economic Growth Crush Refined Product Prices

Posted by Kelly Burke on Aug 2, 2021 4:27:14 PM

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Weak economic data from the United States & China, combined with higher OPEC outputs and rising COVID cases have again raised concerns about oversupply and weakening demand and pushed markets into sell off territory.

Today saw Crude drop 4% to 71.26/bbl, and refined products followed suit, with front month trading closing down .0598 on ULSD to 2.1358 and down an even .06 on RBOB to 2.2747. 

So what's going on?

China reported its slowest factory activity growth in almost a year and a half, which has raised concerns about the strength of the global recovery, particularly as China, in addition to having the world's second largest economy, has had the most robust recovery of the Asian region thus far. In the US, manufacturing activity slowed for the second month as well - so we are two for two on the world's largest economies showing signs of weakness and slowing recovery. 

Globally, we are also seeing an increase in the number of COVID cases reported as a result of the delta variant. Despite reassurances from Fauci and the government at large that the United States will not be looking at a second round of lockdowns because vaccination rates should be sufficient to avoid them,  the resurgence of mask mandates and other protocols in some areas has led to some skepticism that economic recovery and therefore demand growth will continue. 

At the same time these concerns mount on the demand side, on the supply side, the output from OPEC+ countries for July hit its highest level since the beginning of the Pandemic (April 2020).  The OPEC+ member nations had begun a reversal on previously agreed to output cuts largely based on oil price recovery and a sunny outlook on demand.

It's possible, but unlikely, that the strategy will be reversed again even as we see the demand outlook be flipped on its head. 

So once again, the standing headline conclusion is "we have to wait and see" on both how COVID shakes out, and what OPEC+ may do. 2020 Deja Vu all over again!

Stay Tuned! 

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Topics: OPEC, china, covid-19

EIA Draws Slow COVID Resurgence Induced Sell Offs

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jul 28, 2021 3:12:00 PM

shutterstock_1707677488EIA Inventory report showed much larger draws across the board on all products than anticipated. By the official count, Crude drew down 4.1mmb (2.9 expected), distillates 3.1mmb (435K expected) and gasoline 2.25mmb (916K expected). 

  The draws indicate a continuing tightness on the supply side in     the face of massive demand recovery as economies by and large get back to work as "normal". However, the past few weeks we've seen drops consistently on heightening concern about COVID resurgence and the spread of the Delta variant. 

Concern lingers as countries report a rise in cases and some have reintroduced some lockdown measures, or revised guidelines (including new guidance by the CDC on masks in the US). The growing fear is that extension of lockdown measures, or a return to lockdowns in a given sector could once again plummet demand and send markets reeling.  . 

On the other hand, global market supply is still extremely tight, even with additional produced gallons by OPEC+ member countries coming online. 

So, we essentially are in a weird spot where demand alone is the critical piece of whether the market will rally or slide - global supply is low which would support price increases, but if China does in fact crack down on imports of Crude as they appear to be doing, and COVID continues to tick up globally again the demand drop could be such that we don't see a rally materialize.

It's really anyone's guess as to how the world responds to continuing COVID fears should the cases continue to rise. 

Stay Tuned!  

 

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Topics: OPEC, china, covid-19

Prices Rally as EIA Reports Say Lower Inventory, Higher Demand

Posted by Kelly Burke on Apr 14, 2021 1:17:23 PM

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By noon trading today Crude was up almost 5%, and on the refined products side, ULSD was up 7 cents and Gas up almost 6 (+.0586) and the market looked like we could see the highest close since mid-March. 

So what's going on?

EIA Reports! The EIA demand outlook was increased signaling the agency sees a continuing growth in demand for petroleum products going forward. On top of that, the EIA Inventory reports this morning showed a draw of 5.9mmb on Crude for the week ending 4/9. This is actually pretty close to the number analysts had predicted on Crude - however, analysts had predicted builds on gasoline of 5.65mmb, and that's what kept prices in range Tuesday. The actual reporting from the EIA showed a build of only 300K, obviously a far cry from the priced-in 5.65mmb, and that took the brakes off of holding prices back.

So essentially, the EIA is predicting more demand and reporting dropped inventories at the same time, and that's pushing prices north. 

Other bullish factors behind prices moving up include substantial growth in Chinese oil usage (imports increased a reported 21% last month) and continuing positive economic indicators in US.

On the other side of the equation however, we are seeing a continually slow vaccine rollout (particularly in Europe) while we simultaneously see explosions in cases in some areas (ie Brazil). Yesterday, we also saw an announcement that the United States is "pausing" administration of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine for COVID-19 after reports of potentially fatal blood clots in a small number of recipients. The pause reportedly will be for "weeks or even days not months" according to officials, but the major concern is a PR one, that the pause will cause hesitation in getting vaccinated among those who have not yet, which could hypothetically impact both case numbers, and how quickly the country is able to be fully back open for business. 

So vaccination concerns and case numbers are basically the black rain clouds over a potentially stronger, longer rally on prices, and it's anyone's guess which side of the equation wins out over the next few weeks. 

Stay tuned!

 

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Topics: EIA Inventories, economic data, covid-19

OPEC+ Production Reversal signals Economic Optimism, Props Prices

Posted by Kelly Burke on Apr 2, 2021 1:44:51 PM

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Last month, the OPEC+ decision to stay the course on previously announced production cuts pushed the market up. Yesterday, the OPEC+ decision to reverse course and bring more supply online over the next 3 months (May, June, July) resulted in....surprise! The market going up! 

The announcement on the OPEC+ production level change came initially around noon - normally we would see an immediate drop on the screens in the event of a production increase announcement.

So why not yesterday?

It seems the sentiment is that the sudden reversal is a strong vote of confidence for global economic recovery and a resulting surge in demand, and that confidence, along with some hopeful signs of demand upticks (resuming air travel, refinery utilization increases, import resurgence) is supporting higher price levels. 

This morning, the first jobs report published under new Labor Secretary (Boston's own!) Marty Walsh showed a surprising uptick in jobs. Non farm payrolls shot up 916,000 jobs (analysts had predicted 675K), and the unemployment rate dropped to 6% (last April the unemployment rate was 14.7%).

The markets were closed today in observance of Good Friday so we were not able to see the reports full impact, outside of some upticks in bonds, but it would seem to support the optimistic stance taken by OPEC+ regarding economic recovery. Major economic indicators are still up in the air however, and while countries are making progress with vaccinations and easing of restrictions, we are certainly not "past" COVID as of yet, so optimism should likely be tempered with some caution. 

In terms of the numbers, yesterday Crude closed out at $61.45/bbl - surprisingly tight to the close on the last day of trading in February despite March's volatility (last day of Feb trading Crude settled $61.50). April 1 close for ULSD on front month trading was $1.8316 (+.0618) and gasoline was $2.0223 (+.0626). 

Stay Tuned! 

 

 

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Topics: OPEC, economic data, Jobs Report, covid-19

Oil Spikes on OPEC+ Agreement

Posted by Kelly Burke on Mar 4, 2021 2:57:31 PM

shutterstock_651733465WTI jumped over 5% late this morning, as news broke that OPEC+ members would be agreeing not to raise production levels in April. According to reports, the current established levels for each of the member countries will be continuing as is through April and May, and the Saudi's are planning to forge ahead with continuing to keep the additional 1 million barrels per day offline as agreed to for February and March.

The news of continued cuts leaking from the (currently still happening) meeting surprised the markets, which is part of why we are seeing such a jump - often the predicted outcomes are "priced in" but today analysts fully expected that the ruling would be to let production cuts expire at the end of March as scheduled, and assumed Saudi Arabia would be ramping up production. We have started to see signals of demand levels returning, which, along with the ongoing price rally, had made analysts comfortable that OPEC would begin to ramp production levels back up. Reports indicate that Saudi Arabia urged caution and pushed for today's cut extensions, with Energy Minister Prince Abduliziz bin Salaman saying "Let us be certain the glimmer we see ahead is not the headlight of an oncoming express train"

Yesterday, prices jumped as well as the weekly EIA data for the US showed that the snowstorms and widespread freezing that impacted states in the Gulf Coast region continued to wreak havoc on refinery utilization. Crude stockpiles ramped up by 21.5 million barrels for the week ending Feb 26. That build is even larger than what we saw last April when the sudden imposition of COVID lockdowns demolished demand across essentially all sectors immediately. Crude built as a result of the lack of refinery capacity still in effect, and the opposite was seen (of course) on refined products. Although draws on refined products were clearly predicted, the EIA report still shocked as it showed draws on gasoline of 13.6 million barrels (about 5 times the anticipated draw) and distillates drew down 9.7 million barrels, versus the 3 million predicted.

In other news today, Houthi rebels in Yemen are claiming responsibility for a missile strike on a Saudi oil facility in Jiddah, in a continuation of infrastructure strikes in the ongoing proxy war. The conflict is definitely something to keep an eye on - as we saw in September 2019, attacks on Aramco infrastructure can rock the markets pretty severely. 

At today's close, WTI settled at $63.83. ULSD +.0603 to $1.8960, Gasoline up .0461 to $1.9979

 

 

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Topics: OPEC, EIA Inventories, saudi arabia

Despite Friday Drops, Gains for the Week on NYMEX

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jan 15, 2021 4:42:27 PM

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Despite today's across the board drops on refined prices, (-.0262 UL & -.0255 RBOB) this week saw oil prices overall continue to tick upward. 

What's pushing prices up? A weaker dollar, and stronger confidence in economic rebound as the vaccine rollouts continue. At play as well is new agreement on supply curbs by Saudi Arabia in tandem with larger than expected draws in US inventory levels. 

Wednesday prices came close to hitting 1-year highs at the close, briefly going over in intraday trading for Brent Crude. So far, halfway through January, Crude prices are up ~9% or so as confidence builds in eventual recovery from the COVID induced shut downs and resulting dips in demand that we saw push WTI into negative territory about 10 months ago. 

In terms of the supply side, EIA reports indicated that US Crude inventories dropped a little over half a million barrels for the prior week, with gasoline dropping 1.1mmb & distillates dropping 2.3mmb - double what some analysts had projected. More broadly, Saudi Arabia has pledged to cut its output by 1mmb/day which will drop overall production levels, even though Russia will actually have allowance to produce slightly higher levels than before. Sort of an odd twist to the usual OPEC+ setup - you can read more about the specifics on the deal here in the New York Times: Saudi Arabia Will Cut Its Own Production, Allowing Russia's to Grow 

On the demand side of the equation, talks regarding further stimulus under the Biden Administration, as well as continued vaccine rollout seems to have traders (and everyone else) hopeful about eventual demand recovery as the economy hopefully strengthens and rebounds once immunity levels hit threshold. 

We did however see drops today to close the week out across the board. Front month ULSD & RBOB settled at 1.5929 & 1.5284 respectively, with Crude at 52.36/bbl. March numbers closed out with ULSD off .0263 to 1.5942, and gasoline dropped .0261 to 1.577. 

Who knows what happens next. Enjoy your weekend & stay tuned! 

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Topics: saudi arabia, covid-19, Biden Administration

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