Energy Market Updates

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Market Searches for Range Amid Mixed News Signals

We are now a year removed from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and like many times in the past, we seemed to have made it through an extremely volatile period.  Since the onset of this “new normal” we have stressed the need to have a strong relationship with your supplier to help navigate the ever changing landscape.  Recall that we said the $2.65 level for the ULSD contract is a key support level, we have now hit that four times and bounced off it (see below) and the market is truly searching for direction with a $.25 range the last few weeks. 

A bevy of news is swaying the daily and intraday moves.  Russian price caps on crude sales, on the surface, appear to working as they continue to find more means of revenue to fund what looks to be a prolonged campaign.  Yesterdays Inventory report, while mixed, showed a staggering 22% increase in Crude exports over last week and almost 50% over last year.  All while adding 1.2mbls to our own inventory.  Many point to China as the main destination with their manufacturing activity exploding last month to levels not seen in over a decade.  Largely due to a catch up period from the removal of the zero tolerance COVID restrictions, the country is in need of any and all barrels. 

In the US, while our manufacturing activity slowed in FEB, it was less than expected and at its highest rate since OCT22, signaling rate hikes are working and brighter days to come.  This pushed markets higher even as Distillate inventories gained 200k bbls last week and demand was down over 14% from last year which is somewhat concerning.    

In what has been a fairly uneventful winter season, the Northeast is now in the midst of a cold snap with another round of snow expected in the coming days.  Winter diesel is still the safe approach as it is still available for the next week or so, be sure to contact your Rep for area specifics. 

3.2.23 ULSD

 

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Volatility Continues in ULSD Market

Extreme volatility continues grip the futures markets as the USLD pit erased almost $.30 in the last two days.  Even though its up about $.05 currently, expect this sell off to continue for the short term. 

Much of the market has hinged on the anticipated rebound in global demand, largely centered around China.  After being basically cut off from the rest of the world for the last two years, signs were pointing to Covid restrictions and cases easing.  Those hopes took a gut punch Tuesday as reports surfaced that a surge in Covid cases has caused the country to basically halt their rollback of restrictions. 

Fundamentally, the market appears to be better supplied, which is also putting downward pressure on futures.   Physical markets are still seeing wide ranges in price action from one day to the next and some local outages are still popping up. The good news is that last weeks cold snap that pushed freezing temps into the heart of production country left little to no damage to refiners - lessons learned from the hard freeze a few years back. 

Demand spiked briefly last week as many power plants were forced to burn oil for a few days.  It will be interesting to see what inventories look like (which are due today, delayed a day for the holiday).  Keystone is operational, but will not be 100% for another few weeks so there will likely be some shaking out period with the numbers. 

Overall, it looks like we are starting another pull back which hopefully puts front month ULSD futures in the $2.70 range.

1.5.23 ULSD

 

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ULSD Cash Markets Correct & Backwardation Cools

A few weeks ago we hoped to see ULSD trading $.50 lower, as the cash market was tumbling at warp speed.  And would you look at that, here we are! Much of those losses have come from the last 5 sessions alone. (see chart below). 

At the same time we have seen the market backwardation almost get erased.  Suppliers should be more willing to put product in tank versus working hand to mouth.  The JAN to FEB spread is now a mere $.01, it wasn’t long ago that is was over $1.00, and the summer months are all but flat.  So, cash prices have corrected, Futures prices have collapsed (again) and the backwardation is going away!  Great News!…. Let’s not break a piñata just yet. 

Inventories reported large distillate and gasoline builds, both in the range of 6mbls with exports of finished product dropping as well.  Again, what we said needed to happen.  The JAN screen is about $.17 higher than pre Ukraine invasion, and about $.70 higher than a year ago.  The key is that it appears that demand is starting to slow, be it from rate hikes (intended to slow inflation) or higher costs all around, most point out that next year will be soft in terms of demand and spending in general. The goal now is to normalize and hopefully not get too deep into a recession that could take years to recover.

OPEC is staying the course on production levels, China COVID fears are also hitting demand on a world level. The Russian Oil cap of $60 per barrel is still playing out.  Going into effect on the 5th, the G7 measure aims to limit that what Russia can profit from their crude and subsequently curtail the money needed to sustain a Ukrainian takeover.  However, non G7 nations such as China and India are already taking additional vessels of Russian product, so the net result remains to be seen.  Point being is that there is a fair amount of fundamental variables out there that will continue to weigh heavy on the pricing of product. 

Kerosene is still very scarce across the region and cash values are still almost $3 higher than diesel thus prices will remain higher in comparison for much of the winter.   Buy the rumor, sell the fact is the old saying. I don’t see that going away anytime soon, we just may be at a new normal when it comes to pricing, thankfully much less than we have seen in the last few months.

ULSD 12.8

 

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Wild Intraday Swings on ULSD

The last three sessions have seen .4373 get peeled off the ULSD front month contract, with massive intraday swings.  Yesterday at the open, APR22 ULSD fell almost .25 before rallying back to finish down only .0673. 

The big drop on Monday was attributed to China locking down Shanghai amid new outbreaks for a minimum of four days thus putting demand fears into the market.  Tuesday saw traders take into account that there appeared to be progress in peace talks amongst Ukrainian and Russian delegates, but that subsided as the day went on.  This morning that sentiment furthered as it appeared there was nothing to report on the situation other than both sides would agree to meet again.  It is clear that many sanctions that have been put in place, may have a longer stay even if there is a withdrawal.

Pricing is wild right now, cash markets are making it even more challenging. 

The Chart below doesn’t do much other than confirm Warren Buffett’s take “that if you flip it over, it says the same thing.” 

With Demand appearing to take a hit in this week’s DOE report, and subsequently Inventory rising, products have come off there morning highs by about .15 and are only up about .04 at present.  On a positive note, most OPEC nations have come out and stated the they would not let Politics get in the way of production levels, which may calm supply fears, evident in the .32 backwardation APR to MAY.

ULSD 3.30.22

 

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Demand Concerns Temper Prices Despite Supply Crunch

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

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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Uptick in COVID Cases & Strengthening Dollar Push Prices Down

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

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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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EIA Draws Slow COVID Resurgence Induced Sell Offs

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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Prices Rally as EIA Reports Say Lower Inventory, Higher Demand

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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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