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Inflation Fears Keep Oil Prices Suppressed


The week began positively with robust U.S. gasoline demand and improved Chinese consumption, but optimism waned as Tuesday's higher-than-expected U.S. inflation data weighed on oil prices.

Plunging Diesel Cracks Bring Refinery Run Cuts Back on the Agenda

- Higher supply of diesel is eating into middle distillate cracks, with the profitability of making middle distillates halving compared to this year’s February peak levels, prompting run cuts in Europe and Asia.  

- Asian diesel cracks have fallen to $15 per barrel, half of the $29 per barrel seen in February and the lowest in 11 months, whilst US diesel cracks dropped to $17 per barrel as higher production of renewable diesel and biodiesel is replacing some consumption, especially in PADD 5.

- Diesel futures in both Europe and the US have flipped to contango, with contango in the 6-month European diesel spread surging to $12 per metric tonne, indicating that it’s more profitable to store the fuel for later consumption than to use it now. 

- China’s lukewarm diesel demand, adversely impacted by increasing electrification of its trucking fleet and lower construction activity, prompted Shandong teapots to run lower, with refiners in Taiwan and South Korea also implementing throughput rate cuts this month.  

Market Movers

- Reacting to BHP’s $39 billion takeover bid, mining giant AngloAmerican (LON:AAL) is now considering an IPO of its diamond business De Beers, mulling a potential break-up via a demerger. 

- Canada’s midstream giant Enbridge (TSE:ENB) announced that pipeline throughput on its 3.1 million b/d Mainline system have so far seen little change despite the launch of TMX, aiding it to a 10% stock share recovery over the past month.

- US oil major ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) is nearing the end game of its $1.28 billion divestment of its onshore assets in Nigeria to Seplat Energy, with the country’s regulator saying the approval could come in a matter of weeks.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The week started on an upbeat note with strong U.S. gasoline demand and improving Chinese consumption setting the stage for another weekly gain, however, Tuesday’s U.S. inflation data nipped that optimism in the bud. PPI rose 0.5% last month, well above the market’s consensus expectation of 0.3%, indicating that inflation will remain a policy conundrum for much longer. Should April CPI data also come in higher than expected, Brent should drop to the low-80s. 

Iraq Opposes New OPEC+ Output Cuts. Marred by accusations of systemic overproduction, Iraq has claimed it had made enough voluntary production cuts and would not agree to any additional OPEC+ curbs, with the ambiguous statement heating up the preparation for the OPEC+ June 1 meeting. 

US Extends Oil Service Firms Venezuela Waiver. The US Treasury Department extended a waiver allowing certain transactions with Venezuela’s national oil firm PDVSA for oil service companies, however still prohibiting any drilling, processing, purchasing, transporting or shipping operations.

Hedge Funds Turn Bullish on Oil. Hedge funds and other money managers have increased their short positions in Nymex WTI futures and options by 16%, marking the fourth straight weekly decline and reducing the net length held in the benchmark contract to 117,651 contracts, the lowest since February.

Related: Electric Vehicles Lose Market Share in the U.S. as Sales Decline

Republicans Try to Stop EPA Carbon Rules. Attorney generals from 27 Republican-held US states and industry trade groups have sued the US Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to block the Biden administration’s mandate for gas and coal-fuelled power plants to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2032. 

Canada Braces for Wildfire Re-Run. Canadian authorities issued an evacuation alert for Fort McMurray in Alberta, home to almost 1.5 million b/d of oil sands production, citing “extreme” wildfire danger there with PM Justin Trudeau warning of a another “catastrophic” forest fire season. 

South Korea to Build British Nuclear Plants. According to the FT, South Korea’s KEPCO (KRX:015760) held negotiations with the British government to build a nuclear power station at the coastal area of Wylfa in Wales, four years after Japan’s Hitachi scrapped its initial plans to build a plant there. 

LME’s Aluminium Storage Woes Continue. Total aluminium stock held in LME warehouses almost doubled in just one day last week, jumping to 903,850 metric tons after 425,575 mt were deposited in Port Klang, Malaysia, suggesting that rent share deals for Russian-made metal remain lucrative. 


RioTinto Joins the Anglo Bidding Contest. The world’s second largest mining company Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) is reportedly considering a bid for AngloAmerican just as BHP saw its first offer rejected by the London-based company, joined by global commodity trader Glencore that’s also mulling a potential move. 

Qatar Find a Trusted Partner in ExxonMobil. A year after QatarEnergy farmed into ExxonMobil’s (NYSE:XOM) Canadian offshore acreage, the Qatari NOC has agreed to acquire a 40% participating interest in the US major’s two exploration blocks offshore Egypt, the Cairo and Masry concessions. 

OPEC’s Bullishness Knows No Boundaries. Leaving its forecasts unchanged for 2024 and 2025, OPEC reiterated its extremely bullish outlook for 2024 crude demand, expecting it to rise by 2.25 million b/d, almost double the IEA’s forecast of 1.2 million b/d and the EIA’s call of 0.92 million b/d.

Biden Signs US Ban on Russian Uranium Imports. US President Joe Biden signed a ban on imports of Russian enriched uranium into law this week, currently accounting for some 24% of all uranium used in US nuclear plants, with a 90-day grace period and the possibility to apply for waivers until 2027. 

Biofuel Producers Rise Against Chinese Cooking Oil. A group of leading US biofuels producers, including Cargill, Bunge and Archer-Daniels-Midland (NYSE:ADM) has called on the Biden administration to lift import levies on Chinese used cooking oil, arguing it is undercutting US crops used for biofuels. 

Indonesia Starts New Upstream Auction. Indonesia seeks to boost exploration in its offshore waters by offering five blocks in this year’s first lease sale, part of its 10-auction licensing spree in 2024, seeking to tap into new reserves as out of its 128 hydrocarbon basins, 68 remain entirely unexplored.

By Tom Kool for Oilprice.com

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