Devil in the Details

Good morning,

I hope this message finds everyone safe and healthy.  Since OPEC+ announced a deal to cut production by a record 9.7M barrels/day, crude prices have found some floor support.  Many people are rejoicing at the low price of gasoline and diesel in the US right now.  However, demand is down nearly 50% and spot prices for gasoline and diesel are primed for a major jump in the coming weeks.  The devil is in the details of the current market condition.  Unless the US cuts oil production dramatically, WTI crude prices will continue to tumble.  However, we are seeing Brent prices rise along with refined products and propane.  How could this be?  Well, Brent crude is what we import for East Coast refineries.  Since Brent production is being cut, base cost is starting to increase.  Much of the crude in the Midwest comes from Canada.  Canada is announcing almost 25% reduction in production.  But the price of WTI (crude harvested in shale plays) is dropping, and dropping fast.  The market is telling American producers, if you don’t turn off the wells, WTI prices will fall to single digits.  So for now, we are seeing WTI break away from Brent.  I expect the spread in price between WTI and Brent to grow dramatically over the coming months until the US cuts at least 25% production.  China’s appetite for crude is starting to come back which is helping alleviate some of the initial crude oil glut, but we have a long way to go.  The only way crude prices pop like a rocket is if a miracle treatment for the coronavirus hits the market and moves economies to a V shaped recovery instead of a U shaped recovery.

In Wisconsin, some areas are enjoying gas prices below $1/gallon.  My advice, don’t get too comfortable with that price.  Chicago Spot Market, which is the basis for the majority of gasoline purchased in Wisconsin, is trading at a 42.5 cents BELOW New York Harbor Contract (the basis for gasoline prices).  In other words, our gasoline is 42.5 cents/gallon cheaper than the base for gasoline.  The fall in pricing differentials is due to a glut of gasoline coming out of the Chicago refineries the past month and a half.  The glut is starting to diminish as refineries cut utilization projections going into June.  Our neighbors in Minnesota and Iowa saw their cost of gasoline rise 20 cents in two days!  I believe that when the June contract for Chicago comes into trade next week, we have a potential to see gas prices rise 20 cents/gallon in our market.  So for now, enjoy the cheap gasoline while it lasts, but don’t get too comfortable.  Diesel prices are remaining very low, but they also have about 20 cents/gallon to give up based on differentials.  I’ve been telling all farmers to fill up now for planting season.

Propane prices reached a bottom in pricing back in March.  Prices have been slowly rising since and I don’t expect to see any cheaper pricing in propane for the remainder of the year.  Propane supplies are very tight due to the lack of production in Canada and the US.  In addition, exports remain at RECORD levels to this day.  Therefore, the glut of propane in our country is already starting to dwindle.  I believe that prices for delivery today will be cheaper than in the summer.  I am advising all customers to fill their tanks now and contract for next year.  At this time, propane prices have a potential to be very volatile and risky for index blowouts.  If you are waiting for a summer fill, I believe the time is now.  There is much more upside risk in propane than downside.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to give us a call.

Stay safe and be well!

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

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