Phil Flynn is writer of The Energy Report, a daily market commentary discussing oil, the Middle East, American government, economics, and their effects on the world's energies markets, as well as other commodity markets. Contact Mr. Flynn at (888) 264-5665
Oil funds started to pile on to the short side of crude after more than a 20% drop as they all of a sudden realized that we saw oil demand destruction of historic nature. Today Goldman Sachs downgraded China’s GDP growth forecast to 5.2% from 5.8%.
Yet with the Chinese stock market rebounding for the second day in a row and more signs that the virus has peaked, could oil be ready for a recovery rebound? China has added billions of dollars of stimulus and says they are prepared to offer even more tax relief to Chinese companies. China is signaling that it will do whatever it takes to maintain economic and financial stability.
OPEC and Russia could help that rebound if, as expected, Russian finally goes along with its expected 600,000 barrel a day production cut.
Yet even without that cut, the chart for crude oil is looking very oversold and not even a bearish American Petroleum Institute (API) supply report could drive us to new lows. The API reported that crude stockpiles rose by 6 million barrels last week and by 1.33 million barrels in the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery point. Gasoline supplies also rose by 1.08 million barrels. Yet a surprise 2.33 million barrels drop in distillate was supportive. Now with a risk-on attitude in stocks, it is possible that, barring any negative headlines, we have found a bottom.
Very often when we get these demand destruction events, and the market starts to fear it, they generally initially overreact to the downside in price. While many times the move is justified, there comes the point where they have priced in the worst-case scenarios as opposed to reality. The reality is that we still don’t know how harmful the virus will be but there is talk of the virus peaking and high hopes for vaccines and so know we might see oil demand recover faster than the market was assuming. There is no doubt that at some point we could falter again. We could be looking at the proverbial “dead cat” bounce. If global markets start to look shaky or even if we get a very bearish report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), we could easily see buyers run for cover. Yet traders with a high-risk tolerance are starting to look at oil as a buying opportunity at these levels. While picking a bottom is, especially under these circumstances, dangerous, it could also be very lucrative if the call is right.
Products should see support on reports of a fire at Exxon’s Baton Rouge Refinery, which has 502,500 b/d capacity.
Can natural gas bottom. Just like oil, natural gas has been hammered on warm weather and the fact that shipping LNG into China has stopped. The chart looks like it wants to try recovery but Andrew Weissman of EBW Analytics warns that a surging year-over-year storage surplus—reaching nearly 800 Bcf by mid-March—is likely to maintain downward pressure on natural gas. A retest of 2016 lows of $1.611/MMBtu appears increasingly expected in the weeks ahead. From a long-term fundamental perspective, however, gas prices are nearing an equilibrium state, with the November storage trajectory falling below 3,700 Bcf. Any further declines are likely to provide fodder for an early summer rebound. Very weak global natural gas prices may constrain any possible domestic gas price recovery—likely maintaining sub-$2.00/MMBtu rates for longer than many anticipate.
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