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Petroleum Market Commentary - December 2, 2013

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Prices Steady - Inventories Higher - Speculation Higher - Demand Lower

DIESEL:

During the week ending November 29th, the spot month diesel futures price increased by 0.65 cents per gallon (+0.21%) while the deferred months changed from down 1 cent to up 1cent per gallon making the forward pricing curve relatively steady and less negatively sloped. The one year forward price ended the week at a 9.65 cent (3.17%) discount to the spot price, from a discount of 9.43 cents (3.10%) and the end of the previous week.

The change in level and slope of this forward pricing curve indicates steady demand expectations and slightly higher supplies with respect to demand. Demand includes speculative demand. 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 November 29th, the spot month gasoline futures price decreased by 4.20 cents per gallon (-1.54%) while the deferred months decreased by 2 to 5 cents per gallon making the forward pricing curve lower and less negatively sloped. The one year forward price ended the week at an 11.62 cent (4.53%) discount to the spot price, from a discount of 14.13cents (5.47%) 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 slightly lower on the week which is positive for price. Inventories on the week were higher which is negative for price. The stock market, as a proxy for demand expectations, was slightly higher which is positive for price. Speculation was higher on the week which is positive for price. US domestic crude production continues to be strong and exceeded 8 million barrels per day for the first time since January 20, 1989. This remains negative for price.


Weekly US petroleum demand decreased by 3.93% during the week ending November 22nd. Demand is up 5.87% vs. one year ago and demand is currently 7.15% above the five year average.

The attractiveness of making new hedges decreased on the week as prices were steady while higher speculation levels presented the long-side hedger with a relatively unattractive environment in which to place new hedges. As prices move and as time passes, the advisability of hedging will change. As further price opportunities present themselves, hedging will become more attractive.

Below is a one year chart of spot diesel futures prices as of November 29th.

Below is a one year chart of spot gasoline futures prices, the hedging mechanism for gasoline, as of November 29th.

Factors affecting the market on the period were:

During the week ended November 22nd, total petroleum inventories increased by 3.04 million barrels vs. a five year average increase of 5.54 million barrels and vs. an expected decrease of 1.80 million barrels. Inventories decreased by 2.50 million barrels vs. the five year average. Total inventories stand at 712.9 million barrels, up from 709.9 million barrels at the end of the previous week. The five year average inventory is 693.8 million barrels, up from 688.3 million barrels at the end of the previous week.

Current inventories are 2.75% larger than the five year average down from +3.13% 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 November 26th, the net speculative long position in petroleum futures was 281,422,000 barrels up 13,539,000 barrels (+5.05%) from the previous week. Speculation increased for the second week in a row and represents 39.48% of domestic inventories. Speculation is 4.52% below its one year moving average and is 34.39% below the 52-week high set on July 23rd. The corresponding spot month heating oil futures price on November 26th was 304.44 cents per gallon, up 13.86 cents from 290.58 cents per gallon during the previous week.

Diesel fuel price and size of speculative net long position in petroleum are 67.40% correlated over the past 52 weeks (an increase on the week) indicating that, on a statistical basis over the past year 45.43% of the price movement of diesel fuel is explained by changes in levels of speculation. This statistical relationship has strengthened in recent weeks in an environment of relatively high speculation which tends to increase correlation. Other fundamental factors such as higher domestic production remain as important price drivers in the current environment. 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 268.29 cents per gallon or 36.15 cents per gallon less than current prices. The analysis would indicate that about 11.88% of current price is attributable to speculation and its underlying market rationale. The "would be" price was down by 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 295 million barrels, which was up about 1 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, advisory, and consulting firm. Linwood creates and manages customized fuel hedging programs for institutional consumers of petroleum, natural gas, and electricity on a nationwide basis.