Bottom Forming in the Crude Market?

Good morning,

Well, the price floor carved out last week on WTI gave way under the announcement for tariffs in Mexico, coupled with a dramatic increase in US crude inventories this week.  Much of the increase in inventories is being blamed on demand erosion in the Midwest from flooding.  Farmers are almost 50% behind in most parts of the Midwest which greatly affects demand.  Others are chatting that the EIA has reported false inventory numbers.  Regardless, WTI Crude broke through the $52/barrel technical mark and fell to $50/barrel for a brief moment.  The massive dive in crude prices has caused OPEC to up the talk around extending or increasing production cuts through the end of 2019.  In addition, the trade war with China continues to spook traders on potential economic erosion in China and possible recession in the US.  So then the FED announced this week that potentially a rate cut is on the table.  The chatter from OPEC as well as discussion of a FED rate decrease is putting upward pressure on crude prices and possibly carving out a floor for now.  I do believe that we have experienced a bottom in prices until the OPEC meeting on June 26th and 27th.  So for now, sit back and watch as prices at the pump slowly come down!

In local retail news, gasoline and diesel prices are starting to slowly come down.  I expect to see the downward trend continue into next week.

Propane prices have also stayed very, very low.  We are now at the lowest price in almost five years.  I recommend that everyone fill their tanks as soon as they can to take advantage of the current market condition.  Contracts for next season will be out the first part of the July and will be lower priced than last year!  It’s always nice when we can announce good news. 🙂

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Crude Prices Become a Falling Knife

Good afternoon,

Well, May officially became the worst performing month for WTI and Brent in the last six months.  Not only did the China trade war heat up to a new level this past week, but Trump sent a shock wave to the markets this morning with an early morning tweet announcing tariffs on Mexico.  WTI crude officially fell through the support level of $57/barrel and will now try and target $52/barrel.  Without any change in tone or action on the trade front, I believe that WTI is finding a new home under $60/barrel for a while.  In addition, China’s manufacturing data was weak, showing that maybe the trade war is slowing the second largest economy.  However, there are some geopolitical developments that could cause a pop in price.  In Libya, infighting is continuing and on the verge of another civil war.  If this happens, crude exports could be shut off to zero.  And most market analysts will say that none of this current conflict is priced into the market.  Also, China is about to receive a shipment of Iranian crude which would violate sanctions.  But countries are already figuring out ways to get around the sanctions.  And, major hedge funds have not only left their long positions in crude, but also their short positions!  Basically, “Big Money” is exiting the crude trade.  So for now, crude prices are in free fall.  What a difference a month can make!  The wild ride of crude oil prices has been the most volatile I’ve seen in a few years and I don’t see the pattern changing anytime soon.

In local retail news, terrible flooding in the Midwest has not only eroded demand but also put major bottlenecks in supply chains.  Prices out of the local Chicago and Group markets spiked to their highest differentials in years.  But prices are starting to ease as the bottlenecks are being worked out.  I could see prices at the pump starting to retreat in the next week.  Diesel prices are slowly coming down as well.  The US remains very strong in supplies and not much out their for major supply shocks at the moment.

Propane prices continue to stay very low.  In fact, we are currently at the lowest retail price in almost three years.  I strongly suggest that everyone fill their tanks at these prices.  There is a greater risk of prices going up from here rather than going lower.  Contract prices for next year are shaping up to be cheaper than last year and will be released in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for more info on contracts.  But in the meantime, fill your propane tank!

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Trade War Jitters Are Winning

Good afternoon!

Although news of unrest in the Middle East continues to ramp up in reporting from news outlets, the fallout from the trade war between the US and China is winning out on the battle to move crude oil prices.  Crude oil prices have relaxed from last week highs and are now moving closer to the lower leg of recent support values.  WTI is moving closer to $59/barrel which is the current floor.  Today the EIA reported large builds not only in crude oil inventories but also in gasoline and diesel inventories.  The builds were surprising considering that refinery utilization was low and crude production dipped just a bit.  For now, as long as the temperature in Iran does not heat up anymore, crude prices are losing some support.  In addition, hedge funds moved out of long positions and are now at the lowest ratio of long-to-short since last year.  In other words, hedge funds are putting their money on cheaper prices later in the year.  I gotta say that the first five months of this year has been one roller coaster of a ride for the crude oil markets!

In local retail news, Chicago spot prices finally fell back down in line with Group spot.  I expect to see retail prices on gasoline continue to drop just a bit.  I was not expecting to see a drop before Memorial Day, but I think the consumer will see a little relief.  Diesel prices are holding more steady on good demand right now.

Propane prices continue to drop with large national inventory builds and a huge stockpile compared to last year.  I don’t see propane prices falling off a cliff, but I think the current spot prices of propane will be here for quite some time this summer.  If you own your own tank, retail prices are now under $1/gallon!  If you can hold any propane I strongly recommend purchasing at these values!  Contract prices for next season will be released closer to July 4th.  Stay tuned for more info!

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Iran Tensions Sending Prices Higher

Good morning,

This week crude prices have increased based on tensions with Iran in the Middle East.  Reports of attacks on crude ships, drones attacking Saudi Arabia pipelines, Iran carrying missiles at sea, UK and US evacuating embassies in Iraq, and the US sending aircraft carriers and defense systems to the region are all putting a huge risk premium on crude prices.   Crude prices would be going even higher, but the tensions with China and the trade war are keeping a lid on a full breakout to the upside.  President Trump is sending messages that he wants to talk with Iran.  If diplomatic talks can be scheduled and firepower starts to recede, I expect to see prices fall right back down.  Next week will be a big week for crude.  In addition to the geopolitical issues, the US is about to enter its peak demand season.  World demand is staying neutral at the moment and on pins and needles with the trade war.  Supplies are ample, but if Venezuela and Iran truly can’t get crude to market, then we could experience some supply tightness in Q3 and Q4.  Next week will be very interesting to watch.

In local news, just as retail prices were starting to recede a little, prices have jumped right back up.  I expect to see retail prices hold or climb on both gasoline and diesel going into Memorial Day weekend.

Propane prices are at the lowest level of the past three years.  I recommend everyone filling their tanks right now.  There is much more risk of upside price movement in propane.  Contracts will be coming out in a month or so.  Stay tuned for more info.

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Crude Pulls Back / Propane at New Price Lows

Good afternoon,

Crude prices pulled back from recent highs due to massive builds in inventories here in the US this week.  In addition, there are a lot of global concerns on demand and how Russia will react to the next OPEC meeting.  The markets are very ripe for crude supplies to turn to surplus, so the fear has put a quick profit taking reaction in play.  The recent pullback is kind of the calm before the storm.  I think we are experiencing a breather in the moment.  If Russia pulls out of the deal, we could easily see crude prices fall $5-7/barrel.  If OPEC steadies with cuts, I think the markets will try a new high.  For now, it’s the yo-yo effect between $62-65/barrel WTI.  More will develop in the coming weeks.

Retail prices on gasoline and diesel have balanced out.  I expect to see current pricing at the pump hold over the coming week.  Refinery maintenance in Chicago has experienced some relief and supplies are flowing again.

Propane prices have continued their detachment from crude.  Right now, our retail price is the lowest it has been in over a year!  If you are in need of propane, now would be a great time to buy!  Contract prices for next heating season are looking to be at or lower than this current year’s contracts.  More info will continue to be released in the coming weeks.

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Happy Easter Weekend!!!

Good morning,

I wanted to wish everyone safe travels this Easter weekend.  We hope everyone enjoys time with family and friends.  The weather is looking excellent which will be a nice reprieve from the past week!

Not much has changed in the market place.  There is a short week of trading this week since the market is closed on Friday.  I am waiting for next week to see how news is truly digested.  Right now Venezuela is avoiding sanctions by selling crude through Russia.  Russia is really getting anxious and wanting to pull out of the OPEC deal.  The US continues to produce at record levels above 12M barrels/day.  The jobs report was good and earnings have been strong.  In regards to technical trading, WTI crude oil has been unable to break through the resistance level of $65/barrel.  So for now, we are taking a breather.

Retail prices on gasoline and diesel are holding steady with the market.  As I have been saying, I’m not seeing much price relief at the pump in the coming weeks.

Propane prices continue to detach from crude oil and are far showing the most bearish fundamentals we have seen in a long time.  I expect prices to stay low throughout the summer.  Keep a lookout for next season heating contracts around July.  I am thinking that prices will be very similar to last year, even though crude prices are 25% higher.

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Mission Impossible

Good afternoon,

As one oil analyst said this week, “It is impossible to predict the price direction of oil.”  WTI crude prices went to $70/barrel in October 2018, down to $46/barrel in January 2019, and back up to $64/barrel in April of 2019.  The massive amount of volatility really puts a lot of pressure on anyone who claims they know the direction of crude prices.  As many oil analysts say, “we are experiencing boom/bust movements in crude prices and we should get used to it.”  I could not agree more.  Almost five years ago, I sat in a seminar from a famous oil analyst in Canada.  When the US shale revolution started to get legs, he warned of these times.  Man, he was spot on.  The lifestyle of these prices swings could last as long as five to ten years depending on who you talk to.  For right now, not much has changed.  It’s all about the economic headlines for the day.  But the fact remains, the US is still strong in crude supplies and production.  The “swing” in production will be watched in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, and Venezuela.

In local retail news, refinery maintenance season is underway in Chicago and prices for gasoline have continued to break out.  Gasoline prices continue to inch ever so closer to the dreaded $3/gallon price.  I’m not so sure that we get there, but I don’t see prices retreating any time soon.  Diesel prices have slowly crept up as well.  I expect us to see closer to $3/gallon diesel in the next month.

Propane prices are starting to reattach with crude price movements.  But propane is very bearish: record production, supported by high crude prices, lower petrochem demand, full strength exports while experiencing inventory gains, over 30% higher inventory of US propane after a higher than normal demand winter.  I’m sitting on the sidelines for a while with propane.  For now, retail prices are getting close to $1/gallon.  I expect to see excellent summer fill prices and contract prices very close to this season.

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Bulls On Parade

Good afternoon!

Nothing seems to stop the bulls from taking crude prices higher.  The US Jobs report was better than expected so the fears around recession melted away.  The FED continues to talk of lower rates and the US oil rig count continues to drop.  In World News, Libya is experiencing turmoil which can affect oil exports, and Saudi Arabia announced that its largest oil field is producing much less than expected.  And the US/China trade deal looks like “all systems go”.  All-in-all, the data is showing high demand with robust economic indicators.  However…. The US continues to produce record levels of crude with less rigs, showing that we are becoming more nimble and efficient.  Russia is wanting out of the OPEC cuts and does not want to see the price of oil get much higher.  And world demand continues to hang on every announcement.  Basically, we are starting to enter price territory where price will affect world demand.  In conclusion, as I have been saying, the ride up is not over yet, but I’m not so sure it will hold on for the rest of the year.

In local retail news, gasoline retail prices continue to hold around $2.69/gallon and diesel under $3.00/gallon.  With the continued rise in crude prices, I don’t expect to see any downward movement in prices at the pump in the foreseeable future.

Propane prices are starting to drop and I expect to see prices continue the downward movement.  We have only seen propane prices detach from crude price movement a few times in the the past, and it is happening now.  Propane supplies are at record levels for this time of year and are only continuing to increase.  In addition, exports are remaining robust and we expect inventory levels to continue to increase.  Therefore, it’s not a question of “if” propane prices will go lower, it’s a question of “how low” propane prices will go.  For now, we sit back and wait for summer fill prices to come out along with next season’s heating contracts.

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

Crude Prices Continue To Hold

Good morning,

The market looks like WTI will hold price above $60/barrel this week.  There are so many variables flying around right now.  The bulls are being pushed by FED keeping rates low, Saudi Arabia hammering cuts through 2019, Iran and Venezuela sanctions, positive progress on the US and China trade talks, and feelings of healthy demand appetite for crude oil.  The bears on the sidelines are staying active following weak economic data out of China, a not-so-thrilling housing market in the US, record US production, Russia discussing leaving the OPEC cuts, Trump hammering on OPEC to stop cutting, investors such as Warren Buffet saying our economy is out of steam, and potential extension of supply waivers for countries buying from Iran.  So basically you have a full hand of cards showing bull market strength, and a full hand of cards showing bear market strength.  I don’t like to keep sounding like a skipping record, but crude is probably going to trade back and forth in a $5/barrel range for the next quarter until data starts to truly back one of the hands in play.

In local retail news, I believe gasoline is a bit overbought going into refinery maintenance season.  We could see gasoline prices fall off a little bit in the next couple of months.  But for now, I would get used to paying around $2.69/gallon on gasoline.  Surprisingly, diesel prices are staying fairly consistent around $2.95/gallon. I still think there is a lot of upside risk in diesel prices going into Q3 and Q4 of this year.  More to come on this in the following months.

Propane prices continue to drop as we unwind the winter delivery season.  Propane production is continuing at record levels and inventories remain over 30% higher this year compared to last year, and demand was stronger!  Propane prices have a chance of breaking away from crude and falling.  I am very confident we will see excellent summer fill rates and contract prices for next season at or below this season’s prices.  More to come in the following months.

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford

The Bulls Lead the Way

Good morning,

The net long positions in crude continue to build for both WTI and Brent.  Many traders are really holding on to OPEC’s compliance to cuts and the sanctions placed on Iran and Venezuela.  In addition, there continues to be reports of progress on the China/US trade deal.  Although the US rig count declined, production is staying strong.  Refinery utilization is down due to the start of refinery maintenance season.  Therefore we expect all four production quadrants East of the Rockies to experience supply/price issues over the coming months.  As of right now, Chicago appears to be short on gasoline going into spring, so Chicago pricing is starting to disconnect from our neighbors in the Group.  So for now, it’s still the bulls in charge.  I expect to see current retail prices to only increase over the coming month or so.

In local retail news, gasoline retail prices continue to lag in comparison to cost.  Some cities in the surround areas are advertising retail prices below cost of product.  Retail prices on gasoline are ripe for an increase.  Diesel retail prices will remain stable for some time as the #1 oil blending components start to fade out from winter treatment.

Propane prices are remaining stable as we finish up this winter.  Propane production continues to be at record levels and shows no signs of slowing down.  So far we are already seeing prices for next season to be very close to this season.  Stability in price forwards is always nice for consumers.  And there is also a good chance of lower prices for summer fills this summer.  As a reminder, for all will-call customers, please keep an eye on your tank.  This time of year, many people can forget about their tank as temperatures rise during the day but stay cool at night.  🙂

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

Best regards,

Jon Crawford – Pres.