Energy Market Updates

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EIA Inventories (2)

Prices Continue to Soften as Shortage Fears Subside

Diesel futures continue to oscillate on both technical and fundamental influences.  We had mentioned to many, don't be surprised if the March contract touches the support level of $2.65 area when in it was trading above $3.25 in late January.  Low and behold on Monday it bounced off $2.6649 before jumping another $.20 over the next two sessions. 

It appears that warmer temps both here and in Europe (except for this past weekend) started the sell off as the fear of a product shortage for power generation is subsiding.  With OPEC+ agreeing to stick to current production levels, it casts doubt on what demand will really look like as China begins to reopen.  Presently it appears that their need wont be as much as anticipated. 

Domestically, we appear to be making strides on inventory increases with builds across the board yesterday.  Specifically with diesel, we rose 2.9mbls on the backs of strong imports, even with a 2% increase in demand. (partly attributed to power plant usage, as expected). I have said that should we touch the support level of $2.65, we would likely have to reset for a time and figure out where and what will drive the market.  Coming out of winter, we will need to keep a close eye on factors such as China’s demand, future interest rate adjustments, and domestic needs specifically on the transportation and construction side.  

There is still a tremendous amount of volatility within the day as double digit ranges from high to low are now the norm.  I would like to think we will see softer pricing over the next few weeks as the market tries to erase the backwardation that continues to linger.  (keep in mind the outer months are likely to not fall as much)

 

 

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Despite Volatility, Overall Market Continues Downward Trend

The wild ride continues as in just under two weeks, we have erased $.50 of value on the futures market.  Front month ULSD fell $.1937 yesterday setting us up for a test of key technical support levels. 

ULSD MAr 2023

As we thought, we are now firmly under the $3.00 mark, and eying more downside to follow.  Several news worthy factors pushed markets lower yesterday, none of which were attributed to Tom Brady’s retirement.   

The big news was the increase in inventories across the board yesterday with distillates adding 2.3mbl with exports falling slightly.  As we mentioned previously, the trend appears to be taking shape as physical markets in New York Harbor fell even more as supply becomes more available.  Additionally another small rate hike of 25 basis points by the FED appears to have put traders in a sell mode as inflation risk subsides. 

We always have to look at the off Broadway news to get a real pulse of the market.  Not widely reported on yet, the White House appears to be stepping back on drilling leases, as an agreement was made to allow a scaled down drilling plan on the Alaskan North Slope yesterday.  This is a big reversal from a previous stance which I would imagine kept the sell off going yesterday. 

Friday Weather Boston MA

Even the most severe cold air entering the Northeast in several years could not keep futures from taking a nose dive.  (see our update yesterday on best practices for your fleet).  Largely seen as a regional event, if power plants get curtailed this weekend, it will likely show up in draws next weeks inventories. 

Overall, it appears the our range is continuing to get lower, that is - when we spike, we don’t spike as high as the previous.  Q2 pricing is starting to look attractive again, but be sure to be in contact with your Rep as the markets are still extremely volatile.

 

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Inflation Premiums & Low Inventories Prop Prices Despite Demand Drop

Even though Diesel futures have fallen roughly $.20 in the last two days, we are still almost $.40 higher than the beginning of the month.  Still optimistic that we will considerably lower in the coming weeks, however.  

Demand appears to be the underlying factor that is keeping prices from continuing higher.  Yesterdays Inventory report showed that distillate demand was down 3% over last week and down a whopping 18% over last year.  We have mentioned many times that distillates demand, more precisely diesel demand, is often viewed as the pulse of the US economy.  An 18% drop in anything is a lot…. 

The question remains as to why are we still at such high price levels, relatively speaking.  I would like to say it is simply fear of the unknown, but that should only last so long.  The world seems to be adjusting to curtailed Russian product, and Russia appears to have found other markets just fine.  Granted, we have not seen extremely cold temperatures here or abroad.  However, Kerosene pricing has skyrocketed in the last few days pushing winterized diesel in some areas up almost $2.00 in a week.  Inventories remain low, but again, so is demand and the market backwardation persists. Costs of all other goods appear to be falling, or as some say “just not rising as fast” and unfortunately, it points to the oil markets still having inflation hedge premiums built in to the price.  That will take time to remove and still hope to see futures less than $3 soon. 

The ability to capitalize on the dips for the short term appears to be the prudent approach.  Talk with your Rep about seeing if this makes sense for your business.

1.26.23 ULSD

 

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Diesel Futures Rise, but Overall Trend Suggests Cooling

Diesel Futures have risen just over $.25 in the last week, for largely the same reason as they tanked the week before.  China is now lifting most Covid restrictions, as traders now see demand picking up on the world basket.  Even though we are still seeing huge weekly swings, the overall temperature of Distillates looks to be cooling off since trading some $.75 higher than presently mid summer (see below). 

Domestically, this week saw distillate demand still strong, which surprised some.  Still might be some residual power plant use feeding those demand numbers. With Crude showing a huge increase in stocks this week, gaining 19 mmbls, one would have guessed it would have set the whole market downward.  We mentioned that cold snaps, storms, and a pipeline reopening might need a week or two to shake out the inventories and traders took that to heart.  Signs of moderating inflation figures have some thinking the doom and gloom of a full blown, long term recession, might be over done and we are in for a “soft landing” or a purposeful slowing down of the economy. 

Futures are currently on the upswing of the curve, but again, the pattern suggests a sharp pull back.  The backwardation in diesel futures is still hanging around, actually widening in the last several sessions, making some suppliers keep a watchful eye on inventories.  As we work into the heart of the winter, don’t be surprised if outages of distillates pop up.  Again, a strong relationship with your supplier will keep your business running. 

jan 23 ulsd

 

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Intraday Swings Continue

Future pricing action continues to be as wild as a Patriots game ending, with the average swing intraday running over $.12 from high to low.  Yesterday’s bump higher in diesel was somewhat expected on the heels of three strong down days and a fair amount of market moving news on tap. 

First, it appears the damaged section of the Keystone Pipeline is fixed and testing runs are scheduled to take place in the next day or so, but full operation is still weeks out.  This is good news for Cushing to start to rebuild lost input in the last week. 

Secondly, a high profile visit to the White House and Congress by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy all but assured continued US backing of the non-NATO country in its efforts to stave off continued Russian advances.  Hard to interpret, as some have the sense now Ukraine can actually prevail in this, while others are viewing this as a very tight rope to walk supplying billions in aid and defense weapons, somewhat cornering Putin. 

Thirdly, Inventories showed a steep drop in crude of 5.9mbl (expected as we said last week the pipeline shutdown would show this week).  Gasoline showed a modest build of 2.5mbl but Diesel dipped for the first time in five weeks with a slight draw of just 300,000 bls.  The key driver yesterday appears to be that distillate demand is still healthy showing a 6.6% increase over last week.  Much of it appears to be attributed to the expected extreme cold taking hold of the middle part of the country and power plants stock up on alternate fuels.  Locally in the Northeast, supplies are getting better but still seeing a lot of just in time ship arrivals and kerosene pricing has eased but still at much higher values than previous years.  Hauling capacity looks to be the next hurdle facing region and should the extreme cold linger, it might get rough for some.  That strong supplier relationship we talk about will get you through the next several weeks. 

From all of us at Dennis K. Burke, Inc.  we wish you a very happy, healthy and safe Holiday season!

ULSD 12-22

 

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PADD1 Inventory Fears Keep Pressure on Suppliers

padd1

I’ve been away…..any talk about diesel supply? 

News cycles have jumped all over the fear topic of only 25 days of supply of distillates in the Northeast.  It is true that PADD1 distillate Inventories are well below the five year average and PADD1A (New England) is even more tight, however, it is important to understand the term “days of supply”.  That is defined as if everything stopped today.  No production, no pipeline shipments, no vessels, no trucking and we kept using as much distillates as we are at this very moment.  Slightly different than how it can be perceived by watching a news clip. 

Distillate inventories were actually slightly up this week as exports fell by some 300k barrels per day, although our inventories are still some 20mbl below last year.  Key to yesterdays inventory report was that refinery utilization (production) is running at 91% which is up over 4% versus last year and historically this is a high rate.

So what does all this mean?   

For many years, having supply contracts was the standard in the fuel business.  As time went on, predominantly in gasoline, this shifted to suppliers selling excess gallons at the going price, commonly referred to as “rack” gallons.  Because there is very little excess product, the rack marketer is put on the sideline while the contracted supplier keeps companies rolling. 

Future pricing turned positive yesterday on the draw of Crude stocks (makes sense because of the high production rate) and the FED adding another 75 point basis hike to key rates.   Cash values turned negative as there are some rumblings that we actually may see a release of finished product into the northeast in the next week or so.  While this is a temporary measure, it could loosen up for just enough time.  Look for price action to remain volatile over the next few weeks with hopefully a trend to the downside.

ulsd dec1

 

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Distillate Inventory Concerns Persist, Particularly in New England

We have been saying for several weeks that the distillate inventory picture is not the brightest, even more so in New England.  The news cycle has taken hold of this, and judging by the number of calls and conversations I’ve had in the last week, it is starting to sink in. 

We currently sit about 20 million barrels below last year of distillate inventory.  The chart below shows a five year picture and very infrequently would we dip below 120mbl of storage.

inventory chart

With winter approaching, and New England the primary consumer of Heating Oil, the fear is there will not be enough to go around should there be an extended period of cold.  Moreover, if power plants get curtailed from using Natural gas, the alternative source is diesel fuel. 

Courtesy of NEFI, the winter temperature outlook shows the Northeast to be in the third year of a La Nina pattern and that typically means a warmer than average season ahead of us, albeit with a colder December to start. 

weather chart

Exports of Distillates continue to be robust, as we are sending about 1.2mbl per day overseas.  Last week we mentioned that quick relief might come in the way of releasing finished product reserves into the market instead of unfinished crude.  That has fallen by the wayside over the last several days, as this is a market condition and not a physical event, like the last release during Super Storm Sandy. 

Government officials have been quoted as saying “nothing is off the table” in terms of a solution and we have now seen another idea floated which on the surface makes sense.  It has been suggested to relax the sulfur specification on distillates to allow shuddered refining equipment to come back online, thus boosting production and requiring products to remain domestically. 

Years ago, refiners chose not to invest into units in order to produce the ultra low sulfur products we use today (15ppm vs 500ppm).  Opponents say that the turn around time would be too long, and not the quick fix we need. 

Price action continues to be extremely volatile, and I would expect that to stay through the end of the year as the backwardation in the market remains, limiting any excess or “rack” gallons to be available.  Again, having a supplier with a redundancy of contracted supply options and the means to get you product will get you over this hump and better positioned in the future.

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Fundamentals Continue to Push Futures Around

If you were to read the news, it is almost impossible to tell which way the Oil markets are going as the volatility has all pits in wild daily swings.  Fortunately for most of us, diesel prices have corrected over $.30 in the last three days and all but erased the early August climb. 

Demand, Economy, and Inventory are the fundamentals that continue to push futures around.  Reports from the IEA on worldwide demand “coming to a halt” in the fourth quarter due to slowing global economies and continued lockdowns in China rippled through the market yesterday along with interesting Inventory news.  Demand right now sits at its lowest point since JAN21.   

Shown below, gas stocks fell to a 10 month low, but was taken lightly as it is typical this time of year as we switch seasonal grades.  The bearish news came with Distillates building for a third week in a row, albeit still 12% off from a year ago.  Unfortunately for us in the Northeast, our stocks fell by 3%.   Exports of distillates finally fell last week but again they are a staggering 83% higher than last year. With the FED poised to make another 75 basis point rate hike, most anticipate the collateral damage to be demand.  Thus fueling sell off. 

This summers price action is truly one for the record books.  Since May, ULSD has gone up $1, down $1, Up $1 and down $1.  Remember the days that if the market moved $.01 you had  a meeting to figure out what to do?   

Having a good relationship with your supplier is critical during these times.  While it is impossible to predict what the pits will do, its always best to at least know what is happening.

 

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Volatility Continues with Economic Concerns, Export Increases

In the last 6 sessions we have seen ULSD futures slide just over $.50 in value.  While this is good news, the previous 6 sessions added just about the same amount. So basically we are back to the same levels we were mid-August where we all felt pretty positive pricing was moving in the right direction. Much of the rise can be attributed to money being put into the market as an inflation hedge as rates continue to rise, though it is tough to keep that money in long term with the ever present backwardation. 

The slide the last week has come as demand concerns continue to make headlines and more currently China is again locking down several major cities with COVID concerns.  Yesterdays inventory report seemed Bullish on the surface with draws on all products but like anything, the devil is in the details.  Many saw the latest news cycle highlighting the possibility of fuel shortages coming this winter.  A good explanation shows in this weeks report.  Refiners are operating at pre-Pandemic levels, yet domestic inventories of finished products are still down- the key factor is that our exports of gas and distillates are up over 500m b/d over last year. 

Again, it is still better for companies to ship products overseas to get 5x the value than if it were to sell into the US markets.  Forcing US producers to sell into US markets versus formerly heavily Russian supplied countries may appear as abandonment in their time of need politically speaking, and moreover, will that force those countries to “amend” Russian import sanctions……thus it’s a delicate balance.  

The field seems to be mixed on the last few months of the year in where pricing will be headed although the common theme is that the volatility, up or down, is here for a while.

Sept 1 ULSD

 

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Inflation Reduction Act Helps Keep Downward Trend Intact

The past two weeks has seen ULSD rise, and subsequently fall almost $.20 on the front month.  Much of the dip in the last few days came as market players were able to digest some of the details in the 785 page Inflation Reduction Act which appears to moving its way through.  One piece which many believe will have the most impact on futures is that the bill revives lease sales canceled or delayed by President Biden including: one in Alaska’s Cook Inlet  and three in the Gulf of Mexico.  This section also appears to require the Biden Administration to adopt Trump era directives for 2022 oil and gas leasing established.

 Yesterday was clearly driven by inventories and demand concerns with gasoline.  However, distillates were the red headed step child, shrugging off any loses and actually finishing the day higher as demand numbers stayed healthy and inventories dipped.  Crude and gasoline took all the attention with a surprise build in crude and an almost 8mbpd drop in gasoline demand.  It’s really an odd disconnect but many of us actually see it on a daily basis.  Construction, trucking, etc remains strong but on a personal level we may be starting to pull back our own driving habits. 

An OPEC+ hike of 100,000 bpd is rather insignificant as they usually over produce or under produce by that much anyway.  Markets will always have bounces in either direction but often time the trend is still intact, and it appears the downward trend is still there. 

August 4 ULSD

 

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