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

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

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

NYMEX Ends the Week on a Calm Note

Posted by Kelly Burke on Dec 11, 2020 4:12:32 PM

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Markets backed off slightly today across the board. At the close, we saw front month ULSD settle up .0012 to 1.4369 (1.4416 +.0006 for Feb), RBOB dropped .0089 to 1.3077 (-.0087 to 1.3137 for Feb) and WTI closed out at 46.57

Yesterday was another story - markets shot up and we saw Brent Crude hit & settle at $50 for the first time since March. Most upward trajectory in the markets lately has been Vaccine news related, as we've discussed previously. This past week, FDA emergency approvals for the Pfizer vaccine continued the optimism and pushed pricing up. 

Another factor appears to be demand growth globally as compared to last month. Bloomberg is reporting an uptick in road fuel usage in both Europe & Latin America as compared to November, although use is still down a staggering 30% from pre pandemic levels, according to their reports. (Great article - you can read it here: Global Oil Demand is Rebounding Again )

While there is some optimism then with regard to Europe & Latin America in terms of demand growth, the continuing surge of COVID cases in the United States is still a sort of cartoon anvil hanging over the market.

Massachusetts this week rolled back their reopening to a prior phase, California is enacting extremely strict lockdowns for affected zones, and other States are following suit with their own lockdown protocols. Optimism in Europe may be overstated as well, as Germany announced today they were heading into another national lock down. 

Beyond COVID, the counterweight to some demand growth is the new OPEC+ production agreement, under which they will increase production by 500K barrels per day. While not a devastating increase, it's worth remembering that the prior cut in May by 9.7 million barrels per day was revised to only drop 7.7 million 4 months later. So, we shall see if this production increase remains modest, or gets revised upward. 

Stay tuned! Happy Friday, everybody!

 

 

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Topics: OPEC, $50 benchmark, covid-19

Price War! Oil drops 24% on Saudi Reversal & Continued Economic Carnage from Coronavirus

Posted by Kelly Burke on Mar 9, 2020 4:13:04 PM

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Oil markets were tumbling well before the open today, and unfortunately we didn't see that turn around at all through the course of the official trading day.

At the open, we were down -.2076 on ULSD, and -.2362 on gas and it only went downhill from there.

At the close, Crude settled at an incredible $31.13/bbl (down 24%!!), ULSD dropped -.2223 to $1.1629 & RBOB dropped .2521 to $1.1369.

Stock markets took a pounding today as well, dropping precipitously enough for trading to be temporarily halted when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped over 2,000 points after the open this morning. (Both the S&P and DJIA are down over 6% as of writing)

So what's going on?

In response to Russian refusal on the proposed OPEC production cuts, Saudi Arabia has completely changed course on cuts and announced they will not only be pumping at capacity starting April 1 (upon the expiration of the current cuts) but they are also additionally discounting by a reported 4-8 $ per barrel, with preferential pricing going to the US & Europe.

The move is meant to undercut other producers across the board  - somewhat reminiscent of the strategy employed to attempt to push out U.S. Shale production back in 2014-2016(ish) and retain market share at the expense of other producer nations (refresher/throwback on that here: 2015 - backstory on that strategy impact on Russia back then here as well: 2016 ) 

The thing is though, the math has changed substantially on both the Russian & US fronts in terms of capital on hand to withstand the drop in the case of Russia, and production cost and infrastructure in the case of the United States, so it will be interesting to see who blinks first. It's unlikely to be Russia, they announced they can withstand $25 oil for 2 years. (whether that is true or not remains to be seen)  

The second half of the equation today is that the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak is seriously dampening both global economic expectations, and oil demand. In particular, as US cases rise, concerns rise as well on economic impacts. Fear of the virus becoming a full on global pandemic are also in play now as Italy made the move to quarantine an entire region this weekend in an attempt to contain the spread. 

Basically, falling oil prices and falling demand paired with virus induced low global economic growth is igniting fears of a recession. In particular, the US, who has recently become a major producer and net exporter, could feel major impacts that we are not used to. 

Again, it's anyone's guess if we are seeing the bottom or not yet or how long it will take for the factors involved to reverse course. In the mean time, stay tuned (and wash your hands!)

 

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Topics: OPEC, russia, stock market, saudi arabia, Coronavirus

Oil Tanks 10% on No OPEC Deal & Continued Pandemic Fears

Posted by Kelly Burke on Mar 6, 2020 5:00:46 PM

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Wild day on the markets today! Oil plummeted on news that the production cuts proposed at the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna were rejected by the "plus" contingent of the OPEC+ coalition - namely, Russia.

Current cuts will remain in place through March, but technically there is no agreement for continued production cuts past the 31st, which means its anyone's guess how production will be ramped up among OPEC+ nations (assuming another deal is not hammered out). Proposed cuts were contingent on Russian agreement and well... they said no. 

Upon the news, the market dropped 7% essentially immediately, and continued on down throughout the day, closing down 10%  - with WTI settling at $41.28/bbl (lowest it has been since August 2016!). ULSD dropped .1033 to settle at 1.3852, and RBOB dropped a whopping .1328 to close out at 1.3890.

The timing on this could not be worse, as global economic demand growth has been taking a pounding from the Coronavirus' impact on major economic players, specifically China. There was some indication in late February that the virus was being contained in terms of slowing new cases, but that appears to have been wildly inaccurate - infections have now surpassed 100K, and spread to over 93 countries, according to the CDC. 

The stock market was hit just about as hard as the oil markets today in the ongoing panic, despite positive jobs numbers and the signing of an 8.3 billion dollar epidemic relief package in the US aimed at ramping up efforts to contain and combat the virus, as well as develop a viable vaccine as soon as possible. The bill also includes SBA loan options for industries hit particularly hard by the outbreak (like airlines), which was in part meant to combat some of the economic fallout and panic - but today's stock market numbers would indicate it was not successful in that endeavor. 

All of this to say - it's anyone's guess if we have hit the bottom on pricing yet, and it's likely to be a day-by-day analysis until the pandemic fears subside... at which point global supply (and potential supply cuts) will again become the main driver.

Stay tuned! 

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Topics: OPEC, WTI Crude, stock market, Coronavirus

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