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Petroleum Market Commentary - August 19, 2013

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Prices Higher - Inventory Lower - Speculation Lower

DIESEL:

During the week ending August 16th, the spot month diesel futures price increased by 8.96 cents per gallon (+2.99%) while the deferred months increased by 6 to 9 cents per gallon making the forward pricing curve higher and more negatively sloped. The one year forward price ended the week at a 10.27 cent (3.33%) discount to the spot price, from a discount of 8.29 cents (2.77%) and the end of the previous week.

The change in level and slope of this forward pricing curve indicates higher demand expectations and lower supplies with respect to demand. Demand includes speculative demand which decreased on the week and can be volatile. When the forward pricing curve decreases in slope (more negative or less positive), this usually indicates tighter inventories and is generally positive for price. When slope increases, this usually indicates more plentiful inventories and is negative for price.

GASOLINE:

During the week ending August 16th, the spot month gasoline futures price increased by 5.93 cents per gallon (+2.04%) while the deferred months were higher by 4 to 6 cents per gallon. This made the forward pricing curve higher and slightly more negatively sloped. The one year forward price ended the week at a 20.48 cent (7.41%) discount to the spot price, from a discount of 20.64 cents (7.64%) and the end of the previous week.

The change in level and shape of this forward pricing curve indicates lower demand expectations and higher inventory levels with respect to supply and demand.

ANALYSIS:

The US dollar was higher on the week which is negative for price. Inventories on the week were lower which is positive for price. The stock market, as a proxy for demand expectations, was lower which is negative for price. Speculation was lower on the week which is negative for price. US domestic crude production continues to be strong and increased on the week to a new 23.5 year high level which is negative for price. Geopolitical risk, especially in Egypt and Syria, continues to be a background factor that is supportive of price.


Weekly US petroleum demand decreased by 3.05% during the week ending August 9th. Demand is up 1.33% vs. one year ago and demand is currently 0.20% below the five year average.

The attractiveness of making new hedges was mixed on the week with prices higher but speculation levels lower. Since speculation was lower on the week, making new hedges would involve less competition with speculators for long futures positions. As prices move and as time passes, the advisability of hedging will change. As price opportunities present themselves, hedging will become more attractive.

Below is a one year chart of spot diesel futures prices as of August 16th.

Below is a one year chart of spot gasoline futures prices, the hedging mechanism for gasoline, as of August 16th.

Factors affecting the market on the period were:

During the week ended August 9th, total petroleum inventories decreased by 1.95 million barrels vs. a five year average decrease of 4.34 million barrels and vs. an expected decrease of 2.50 million barrels. Inventories increased by 2.39 million barrels vs. the five year average. Total inventories stand at 711.4 million barrels, down from 713.4 million barrels at the end of the previous week. The five year average inventory is 702.0 million barrels, up from 706.3 million barrels at the end of the previous week.

Current inventories are 1.35% larger than the five year average up from +1.00% at the end of the previous week. Inventories versus the five year average on a percentage basis remain positive. This helps to mitigate the effects of supply disruption and decreases price volatility.

As of August 13th, the net speculative long position in petroleum futures was 397,387,000 barrels down 19,448,000 barrels (-4.67%) from the previous week. The level of speculation decreased for the third week in a row. This level of speculation represents 55.86% of domestic inventories. Speculation is 43.63% above its one year moving average and is 7.35% below the 52-week high set on July 23rd. The corresponding spot month heating oil futures price on August 13th was 304.71 cents per gallon, up 3.88 cents from 300.83 cents per gallon during the previous week.

Diesel fuel price and size of speculative net long position in petroleum are 46.47% correlated over the past 52 weeks (a decrease on the week) indicating that, on a statistical basis over the past year 21.60% of the price movement of diesel fuel is explained by changes in levels of speculation. This statistical relationship continues to become weaker as other fundamental factors become more important price drivers. A linear regression analysis over the past 52 weeks shows that if speculation were zero and the market forces causing speculation evaporated, that the spot month diesel futures price would be 277.94 cents per gallon or 26.77 cents per gallon less than current prices. The analysis would indicate that about 8.79% of current price is attributable to speculation and its underlying market rationale. The "would be" price was up about 1 cent on the week.

The net speculative long position has been variable over the past year ranging between 181 million and 429 million barrels with an average of about 277 million barrels, which was an increase of about 4 million barrels on the week.

The graph below is three year history of speculative position levels.

Linwood Capital, LLC is an institutional fuel hedging management and consulting firm. Linwood creates and manages customized fuel hedging programs primarily for public clients on a nationwide basis.