Energy Market Updates

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WTI Crude

Russian Strikes in Ukraine Push Prices to Multiyear Highs

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Oil prices surged another 7% today. At peak intraday highs, WTI hit $105.14/bbl before settling at $103.41.

Refined products followed suit skyward, with front month ULSD up +.2198 to $3.1511, and RBOB up .1562 to $3.0887 (May trading closed +.1915, $3.0381 ULSD/+.1532 $3.0621 RBOB).

Monday we saw WTI close over $100/bbl for the first time since 2014.

The obvious driver for the spiking prices we’ve been seeing has been the ongoing military strikes in Ukraine by Russia, and the resultant fears of not just supply disruptions themselves, but the further impacts that multinational involvement in the conflict could have globally.

Today, the US and allies (Germany, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, and South Korea) announced their agreement to release 60 million barrels from strategic reserves, half of which will come from the United States.

Markets were not comforted much by the announcement (although we did see a slight tempering), largely because the strategic reserve release is much more a symbolic gesture than one that solves supply concerns on a fundamental level.

A multinational agreement to release gallons is more of a statement of solidarity against what is seen as Russian aggression, and a message that countries are willing to take extraordinary measures to prevent global impacts rather than softening their stance on Ukraine. It’s also meant to reassure citizens of allied countries that are facing rapidly increasing prices at the pump that all available measures are being taken to minimize the impact. Currently AAA figures have gas prices in the US averaging $3.62 today, up 9 cents this week and 24 this month, and without a reversal on the markets and an end to the Russia-Ukraine war, that’s not likely to change.

Other measures being taken on the Energy Market side of things have included talks with the Saudis about supply adjustments to backfill any potential shortfalls. It’s unclear that such a jump in production for stability of the markets would be in the cards, however. The thought seems to be that assistance from OPEC/Saudi countries to offset disruption would mostly be necessary should Russia choose to restrict supply or short commitments in an attempt to manipulate the situation. As of right now, they have not given any indication that would be their next move, but as sanctions begin to take severe effect on the Russian economy, essentially anything is possible.

Sanctions and specific company withdrawals from Russia seem to be having impact already on some fronts. Maersk, the worlds largest shipping firm, has halted service to and from Russia, and countries like Britain are not accepting Russian ships at their ports. Major oil companies, including BP and Shell are exiting Russian operations, and TotalEnergies announced a halt to any further capital investment in Russian projects. The Ruble (Russian currency) is tanking after SWIFT banking sanctions took effect and it is currently valued at less than a penny in American dollars.

Long story longer, the situation is very much ongoing, escalating, and uncertain on the ground in Russia, and it remains anyone’s guess how the real world impacts and the market impacts will shake out.

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Energy Markets Spike on Escalation in Ukraine

shutterstock_1009265824Oil prices closed up over 3% today, shooting up again on both continuing supply issues, and escalating tension at the Russia/Ukraine border.

This week we saw Russia reject NATO & US offered compromise measures aimed at deescalating the situation. Subsequently, it was announced that extremely strict sanctions would be imposed by NATO allies should Russia use the troops they continue to ramp up at the border to make an actual physical strike on Ukraine.

Sanctions mentioned included both bans on financial transactions, and potential closing of the newly constructed Natural Gas pipeline to Germany. (As we saw when the prior Russia/Ukraine issues occurred in 2014, the implementation of sanctions can ultimately end up its own conflict down the line, but that’s another story for another day).

Putin Administration officials continue to insist that Russia has no intention of striking Ukraine, while simultaneously increasing troop presence across multiple possible fronts. Thus –anxiety is building.

Trading volumes hit peaks shortly before the closing bell, presumably some of the jump in pricing during that period is Friday afternoon related – no one wants to be short Monday morning should an invasion happen over the weekend that could impact supplies, understandably. However, should an invasion NOT happen this weekend (which is equally likely) we could see modest corrections early next week.

At the close, Brent and WTI Crude both broke the highs we saw Monday (that we hadn’t previously seen since 2014). Brent closed 3.3% higher at $94.44/bbl, and WTI shot up 3.6% to $93.10/bbl. Refined products closed up sharply as well, front month ULSD jumped .0837 to $2.9109, RBOB jumped .0732 to $2.7386. (April trading moved just as sharply, +.0755 on ULSD, +.0812 on RBOB.)

As discussed previously regarding Russia, the risk posed to the overall global supply picture should disruptions occur in their region is hard to overstate. (Refresher on that here: WTI Breaks 90/bbl for first time since 2014)

Definitely a situation to keep an eye on, as it will likely continue to rattle energy markets until some sort of resolution is found. Watch for either a correction or a ramp up in pricing early next week, likely dependent on the developments this weekend.

Stay Tuned!!

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WTI Breaks $90/bbl for First Time Since 2014

shutterstock_1740797837Today saw WTI Crude prices break the $90/barrel threshold for the first time since 2014.

2022 has seen WTI shoot up 20% (despite it still being the first week of February), and that’s in addition to the gain of 50% in value we saw throughout the course of 2021.

So what’s going on?

At the OPEC+ meeting Wednesday, the group announced they would be adding 400K bpd to agreed upon production levels for March, continuing their apparent strategy to slowly bring production back online.

If you recall, in April 2020 OPEC+ pulled around 10 million bpd from production in an effort to “stem the bleeding” as energy markets collapsed due to demand plummeting across the globe in the wake of sudden shutdowns for the coronavirus pandemic.

The initial OPEC+ strategy to slowly bring production back online to keep energy markets balanced appeared wise at the time, but in the wake of global economic struggles and skyrocketing prices, the group has come under enormous pressure and criticism from non-member nations, including the U.S.

Domestically, we have seen prices shoot up over the past several months in the wake of global economic concerns, growing tensions abroad, and changes to the domestic energy policy enacted by the incoming Biden Administration in January 2021.

The feeling in the U.S. is that OPEC+ needs to revise the slow and steady approach given the current circumstances in the energy market. OPEC accounts for 40% of global oil supply, so the consensus outside the group is that reupping production levels would take a lot of the pressure off markets and allow prices to settle.

In 2014, when we saw prices hit these levels before, the United States was in the midst of its fracking & shale production heyday and had become a major price influencer, having overtaken Russia & Saudi Arabia as the largest single oil producing nation. That was an enormous factor in stabilizing prices, and subsequently pushing global prices down. (For a refresher on that, read this: Fuel Marketers News: This Time it is Different )

Currently, moratoriums on drilling and financial and permitting difficulties for existent producers post the COVID price crashes are making the US essentially unable to exert the same control this time around. 

In addition to the already existent demand crunch, growing tensions and war games between Russia and Ukraine are raising fears of additional, and potentially severe, supply disruptions.

Russia (an OPEC+ member) produces approximately 10 million barrels of oil per day, so any disruption of their supply output or pipelines puts a huge portion of Europe at risk for outages, and analysts just don’t see alternative supply being available to cover any Russian shortfalls.

So as always, it ultimately comes down to three things – Supply, Demand, and Politics. And as always, its anyone’s guess how any one of those factors ultimately shakes out.

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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Oil & Stock Markets Plummeting on Trump Travel Ban

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Oil opened down 6% this morning, and has continued to slide. We are currently off ~7.9% at time of writing (10:30am)

Crude oil (both Brent & WTI) have shed almost 50% of their price since the beginning of 2020. Currently, on refined products we are looking at ULSD -.0872 &  RBOB -.1907 (@ 10:30am)

In addition to the Saudi/OPEC price war, we now have yet another factor weighing on oil prices, which is the 30 day travel ban President Trump has imposed on European countries in an attempt to contain the Coronavirus.

The announcement sent stock markets crashing this morning (even worse than yesterday, when the DJIA entered bear territory).The so called "circuit breaker" kicked in to halt trading at 9:35am for 15 minutes.

The markets are now down ~8% - if they hit 13% another trading halt will kick in. 

The stocks being hit particularly hard are Cruise lines, airlines, etc - in other words, basically the stock market is setting demand expectations for major transportation companies extremely low - which means demand for oil products overall are an increasing concern. 

Obviously, this is developing as we are about 12 hours out from the original announcement, and the markets are open in full swing. You can follow developments here:  Business Insider 

(For specific live updates on the stock market itself versus meta analysis, go here: Stock Market Live )

 

 

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

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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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Markets Up on OPEC+ Hope and Coronavirus Slowdown

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WTI Crude traded & settled below $50/bbl earlier this week, as prices continued to slide across commodities. Today, however, we saw the trend reversing, with the market up this morning by almost 3%. (Early on, we were up over the 3% mark but gains dropped off slightly after the EIA inventory reports were released this morning.) 

EIA Inventories showed builds on Crude of 7.5mmb, well above analyst expectations. Gasoline drew down 100K bbl, and distillate stocks dropped 2mmb, as well. Distillate numbers were essentially in line with expectations. Crude pared about .5% on the builds, and gasoline moderated but stayed up, as analysts were predicting builds of ~700K barrels versus the actual drop of 100K barrels reported. 

In broader news, most of today's increases are being pegged on confidence that the OPEC+ production cuts supposedly forthcoming will both be in effect quickly, and will see full member adherence to new lower limits.

Also, China is reporting the lowest number of new Coronavirus cases since January, which is continuing to restore confidence in their economy and calming fears regarding a longer term global slow down on oil demand growth.

At the close, Crude settled back up over $50 again at $51.17/bbl (Tuesday's close was $49.94), ULSD closed up .0490 to $1.6757 and RBOB closed up .0668 to $1.5810.

Stay tuned!

 

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Crude drops 15% in January

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After what seems like 76 days, January is finally over. 

As it goes into the books, January 2020 will go on record as having the largest drop in Crude prices since January 1991 - with a drop of 15% (around 12% on Brent). That's a lot on it's own, but it's especially surprising if you remember that the beginning of the month saw huge spikes on the US-Iran Strikes.

The largest driving factor dropping prices now is growing concern about the potential global economic impacts of the Coronavirus spreading from the Wuhan province in China. There have been several cases now outside of the original geographic area, including the first confirmed human to human transmission in the US.

Late Thursday the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global health emergency. Rumors abound that the State Media in China is vastly under reporting the numbers when it comes to official infection rates and the death toll. Whether that is true or not, it has thoroughly spooked investors and traders, as global markets and the NYMEX tumbled this week.

Wednesday's EIA report showed domestic Crude builds shot way past expectations, clocking in up 3.5mmb for the week ending January 24. (Gasoline also hit a high of 261.1mmb). Obviously builds do not bolster prices, but Wednesday was relatively calm as compared to both Monday & Thursday. Thursday alone saw a 2.2% decline in Crude prices (to $52.14), and a drop of over 6 cents on ULSD at the close. 

Markets kept the downward trend going today as well, with March contract month numbers closing down .0136 on ULSD & off 14 points on RBOB, with Crude settling out at $51.56/bbl.

Reportedly, OPEC is already in discussion to move their March meeting up to promote cuts and stem losses. It's worth noting that the Libyan outage had essentially zero effect on prices this week, where it otherwise (presumably) would have - so the OPEC changes will likely need to be substantial to move the needle, unless the Coronavirus dies down relatively quickly. 

So while we don't know how long prices will be depressed, or when they might reverse, what we do know is that times like this it makes sense to reevaluate the strategies you use to hedge against the market with contracts or variable options, so you can get ahead of the next spike.  

See you in February! 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today's Market = John Bolton Firing vs OPEC Cuts

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This past Friday, ahead of the scheduled OPEC meeting this week, Saudi Arabia abruptly announced a new Energy Minister, Prince Adbulaziz. The move sparked momentary concern that this was a signal the Saudi's would be reversing course on the OPEC+ production cut agreement, but it appears they are actually doubling down.

The kingdom announced they would be adhering to and encouraging the production cuts going forward, and Russian officials announced that they fully anticipated continuing the current trajectory with the new leadership. 

This consensus initially let prices continue their several day climb, with WTI hitting a 6 week high momentarily ... BUT!

But this afternoon, the Trump Administration announced the firing of US National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Bolton was extremely vocal regarding his hardline stance against Iran, and his "resignation" may be a positive signal for future progress on peace talks with Iran, and in the near term, may be a good move to de-escalate the current situation, a lot of which has impacted the oil industry via threats to tankers & the threat to block the Strait of Hormuz. 

Prices have backed off intraday highs following the Bolton announcement. Essentially any hint of resolution with Iran, while positive, also renews concerns about Iranian supply flooding the market, and that is pushing down on pricing (despite the prematurity of any concern). 

Time will tell how the interplay between production cuts and lingering supply concerns levels out, particularly depending on inventory reporting (which we should see tomorrow) and domestic production.

For today, at the close, we ended essentially flat. ULSD +.0035 to $1.9312, RBOB +.0062 to $1.5908

Stay Tuned! 

 

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WTI Hits Lows on Inventory & Projection Data

WTI Brent Crude Decline

Prices continued to slide Wednesday as the EIA reported builds in Crude supplies of 2.21mmb for the week ending June 7th. (Yesterday, the API report indicated even more drastic build of 4.9mmb). This afternoon, WTI closed out at $51.14/bbl, the lowest close since January. WTI has dropped close to 20% since April peaks. 

On the NYMEX today, both gasoline & distillates tumbled alongside Crude, shedding -.0702 and -.0422, respectively. (The session closed out at $1.6861 for RBOB, $1.7799 on ULSD.) 

In addition to pricing being low, demand forecasts have been revised downward for 2019 & 2020 by the EIA, by around 100K bbl per day, globally.  

However, despite both the drop in prices and the slowing demand, forecasts indicate that not only will production continue in the US, but will ramp up by approximately 1.4mmb/day in 2019, according to the EIA. This is supported by statements made by the Deputy Energy Secretary of the United States, Dan Brouillette this week, who said production would continue to increase domestically despite pricing and demand concerns and he expects that demand concerns will resolve "as the economy begins to rev up". He also dismissed concerns that the ongoing tariff dispute with China would adversely impact US production, which remains to be seen. 

Analysts seem to be in agreement that OPEC is unlikely to seek any more curbs in output for their member nations, so essentially, with no major impact events on the horizon, we are just waiting to see if this is the bottom, a new normal, or a temporary blip. 

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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