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NYMEX (3)

Monday Puts the Brakes on Friday's NYMEX drops

It's Monday :( overlaid on asphault

Monday strikes again!

Friday saw Brent Crude drop to almost a 27 month low, dropping to $92/bbl, and WTI for November trading at its lowest level since April 2013.

Today we started with ULSD trending down and gas up slightly, and gas continued to climb through the early afternoon. At the close, ULSD settled up 50 points to 2.6213 and gas shot up +.0347 to 2.4132. Thanks a lot, Monday.  

The dollar continued to strengthen throughout last week, and an unexpectedly good (a relative term) jobs report for the US Friday provided further evidence that the economy is stable to moving forward. The dollar continues to soften commodity futures generally, despite the current geopolitical atmosphere.

Today stocks pushed lower in the US on concerns that the dollar (which actually dropped slightly today) and continued good economic news would push the Fed to raise interest rates. The Fed minutes are due out Wednesday, which should give investors a better idea on the timeline. 

Additionally, supply remains strong and is surprisingly mitigating the factors we almost always see a surge in premium and volatility with. 

There is concern among some analysts slash talking heads that a drop to below $90 per barrel on Brent will spook OPEC into pressuring the Saudi's to cut demand. However, OPEC production hit a 2 year high in September (31 million bpd) and thus far, as discussed, the Saudi's have vowed to hold production targets. We also saw rising production in Russia and Libya, so despite a potential benchmark issue there appear to be no issues on the horizon on the supply side (knock on wood).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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"Polar Vortex" saw Nat Gas hit Record Highs

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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Different Day, Same Headline as Futures Retreat

Once again the NYMEX started off the session well into positive territory with a strong Sunday night open. Much of the gains were attributed to Chinese data released Sunday that showed its Industrial Output rose year over year, signaling stronger demand. But as the day wore on, continued worries about Europe, as the Italian Prime Minister abruptly resigned, appeared to be entering into Traders minds. That fear turned inward as the real concern centers around US distillate demand. Its Common knowledge that inventory levels of distillates are on the very low end of the range, so in the minds of most, the lack of demand is overshadowing the lack of product. Others point that this is just the season to book some profits as traders square up the quarter. I'm pleasantly surprised that we have maintained HO below the $2.95 level, a clear level of support is difficult to define at this time. At the close, Crude fell .37 to $85.56, RBOB was up only 7 points to $2.5981 and HEAT led the charge lower falling .0191 to $2.8962.

Heat map

 

RBOB CLOSE
CLOSE CHANGE
 
JAN 25981 +.0007
FEB 26071 +.0024
MAR 26266 +.0034
APR 27758 +.0041
MAY 27705 +.0035
JUN 27437 +.0020
 
HEAT CLOSE
CLOSE CHANGE
JAN 28962 -.0191
FEB 29056 -.0184
MAR 29043 -.0178
APR 28923 -.0157
MAY 29227 -.0138
JUN 29095 -.0124
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