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
What happened to the WTI Crude June Swoon? After oil prices crashed on the May WTI contract expiration, the Clearing Firms and Exchanges were all ready for a repeat subzero performance. Even the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in a rare warning to all commodity firms, said to be prepared for what could have been another disaster.
There were, of course, good reasons for those concerns. As was well documented, some firms took a substantial economic hit on the crash to subzero prices and to not be prepared for a potential repeat would not have been wise. Yet once again, what the crash to subzero valuations in May and a massive rally in the June contract teaches us, is that the best cure for low prices indeed is low prices. I’d admit that minus $40.00 a barrel was an extreme case, but it does show once again the power of the markets and how if prices got low enough, it would stave off an oversupply disaster that in crude oil everyone was convinced was bound to happen.
The crash to negative $40.00 a barrel was in part because, based on projections, the Cushing, Oklahoma storage hub would be tapped out and overflowing with unwanted crude oil. Yet when prices got so low, it was a call to action to avoid another crash disaster. Not only did we see a record pullback in US oil production of a historical scale, but we also found oil storage where we thought there was none. OPEC, scared to death by the thought of negative oil prices, are seeing record speed in compliance with the agreed-upon production cuts. The US also opened up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to companies looking to fill storage.
In Cushing, Oklahoma, instead of overflowing, we see considerable draws in supply. The latest data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) shows that amount in Cushing fell by a significant 5.0 million barrels. That helped the overall crude inventory drop by 4.8 million barrels last week. A smaller than expected draw of 651,000 barrels in gasoline and a 5.1 million barrel increase in diesel supply is tempering extreme bullish enthusiasm. Still the come back from negative $40.00 a barrel to a positive $32.00 plus a barrel is a reminder that the markets can make what was seemingly impossible, now possible.
Oil is getting a bounce on another report of Russian compliance to the OPEC plus cuts. Reports say that Russia’s oil and gas condensate output has fallen to 9.42 million barrels so far in May, down from 11.35 million barrels a day in April. Russian oil companies are appealing to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a bailout or relief from paying taxes. It will be interesting to see if Putin grants their request. Remember that is was Russian oil companies that were responsible for the production war in the first place.
Things to look at in today’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, number one is gasoline demand. Increases in gasoline demand and the relative ow refinery rates have caused demand for high yielding WTI crude. Number two is US oil production numbers and how far the number has fallen. Next, US refinery runs and gasoline production. Will refiners keep up with escalating demand. The answers will provide great trading opportunities. While we may see corrections it is clear that we are going to see the market move towards balance much quicker than many people think.
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