I hope this message finds you well. I think it is safe to say that we are starting off 2021 picking up right where we left off in 2020: lots of uncertainty, stress, and chaos. WTI crude prices look to finish the week at an 11 month high due to many factors. The week started off with OPEC+ meeting and surprisingly a curve ball was thrown by Saudi Arabia to end the meeting. Everyone except Russia wanted to keep production levels at current levels until March. Russia wanted to be able to increase production by 500k barrels/day, even though the action might cause a dip in price on the market. Russia is still upset at the sanctions being placed on them from the US, lead by Sen. Ted Cruz. Where is Cruz from? Texas. What’s in Texas? Largest shale oil play in America: The Permian Basin. Russia is willing to run at depressed prices if it keeps the American oil industry from ramping back up. Saudi Arabia on the other hand has been willing to give up market share in return for higher crude prices, gambling on demand increases coming later in the year. So on Monday, when the meeting ended with a standstill, many of us thought that Russia might go rogue and prices could fall. Instead, on Tuesday Saudi Arabia agreed to let Russia increase production, but offered an additional 1M barrel/day cut in production from their own supply! The move was a total surprise. Saudi Arabia basically gave the go-ahead to Russia to take their customers. The move caused WTI prices to surge over 8% and continued to climb throughout the week. When you couple this move with the issues in America and the continued devaluation of the US Dollar, I’m not seeing a lot of downward pressure on crude prices. The only wild card hanging is the new COVID variant spreading around. If the lockdowns across the globe make it to America, we could see a temporary demand shock. However, President elect Biden has promised 100M vaccinations in the first 100 days and Dr. Fauci seemed to approve the process this week saying it’s very possible based on the plans he has read. So although there is a chance for some depressed prices in Feb and March, the long term trend on crude prices seem to be higher prices. In fact, Goldman Sachs revised their guidance to $65/barrel WTI by end of year 2021! That would be exactly where crude prices were holding before the pandemic started. The majority are all calling for $55-65/barrel WTI crude throughout the year which is a minimum $5/barrel higher than we are now. Regardless, it seems that the days of cheaper gasoline and diesel could be short lived in 2021.
Local retail prices have risen due to the increase in cost. I believe that gasoline prices will continue to hold over $2/gallon and diesel prices could breach $2.50/gallon in the coming weeks without some price relief.
Propane prices have been on an absolute run! Propane prices have gone up 30 cents/gal in the last 45 days! Even though we started the year at record level inventories, experienced a lack-luster corn drying season, and we are in a warmer winter than last year, inventories have dropped to lower levels than last year! The culprit is record exports. Production is at an all-time high and producers can’t fill ships fast enough to export to the rest of the world. With WTI prices above $50/barrel, we are thinking that propane exports might start to slow down. In fact, propane prices might DROP in February and March, in the middle of winter. But stranger things have happened. If exports continue at this rate, propane will be a very interesting commodity to watch. Storage hubs usually trade between 40-55% crude prices. We have seen 65-85% crude prices these days! The spread is absolutely bonkers! We will be watching the markets closely the first three months of the year as the situation continues to play out.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to give us a call.