PIRA Energy Market Recap for the week ending November 16, 2015

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Oil Sands and Other High Cost Developments Will Be Required to Balance the Market

PIRA Energy Group

We have brought the post-2020 price outlook down and are now limiting the upside. We still believe that oil sands and other high cost developments will be required to balance the market

NYC-based PIRA Energy Group believes that oil sands and other high cost developments will be required to balance the market. In the U.S., the total commercial stock surplus widened to the largest of the year. In Japan, crude runs began rising and the stock bulge corrected back downward. Specifically, PIRA’s analysis of the oil market fundamentals has revealed the following:

Longer-Term Oil Price Outlook Marked Down vs. August

PIRA has brought the post-2020 price outlook down and are now limiting the upside. PIRA still believes that oil sands and other high cost developments will be required to balance the market. However, price responsive US and global shale should limit the upside central tendency.

Growing Concern over Medium Term Downside Price Risk

PIRA has not changed our longer-term Reference case for US natural gas prices vs. August. However, PIRA has boosted the probability of the low case to reflect both demand side concerns and the potential for lower supply cost. If cost reductions in Haynesville are widely confirmed, PIRA will reconsider the Reference case outlook.

As Gas Is Being Repriced along the Curve, European Power Is at a Turning Point

With spot and forward gas prices continuing to look for a bottom, European power appears to be moving toward a new dispatching equilibrium. While the recent years have seen plummeting spark spreads and large losses in gas-fired generation, the current fuel pricing dynamics suggest that gas will be moving back into the stack, displacing more efficient coal units. In other words, we expect a structural recovery in the spark spreads both in the U.K and the Continent.

European Carbon: Stronger Fundamentals Needed to Maintain Price Gains

Eastern European countries have started their 2015 power sector free allocations. Looking ahead, EUA auction volumes/supply will increase from 2016-2018 with the easing of backloading. Longer term emissions growth is expected to be weak, especially with the announced German lignite plan. Implied carbon prices from fuel switching have been moving strongly lower as well. Substantial Phase IV ETS reform discussions are not expected until next year.

Coal Pricing falls again Amid Wider Energy Market Weakness

Seaborne coal pricing faded yet again last week, with weaker oil and gas prices driving the market lower. API#2 (Northwest Europe) prices lost the most amount of ground as heavy European imports of LNG drove NBP gas prices down considerably from the prior week. With a lack of support from the oil market, and persistently weak coal fundamentals, it is difficult to envision a scenario where coal prices rise appreciably over the balance of the year, and into 2016. However, PIRA’s expectation of a rebound in 2H16 oil prices should give coal prices some uplift, if only from higher production cuts and technical trading factors.

Weaker Asian LPG Markets Search For Direction

Asian LPG prices were pulled lower with Crude oil last week. Cash and futures propane prices continue to look disconnected with physical cargoes arriving in December called near $465 while futures for the same month traded $30 lower. The front futures spread is now steeply backwardated at +$40/MT – the most since the end of last winter, indicating weaker demand lies behind the prompt needs. Butane prices were crushed more than 10% lower to be called near $475, just $10 above cash propane.

Ethanol Prices Tumble

U.S. ethanol prices plummeted the week ending November 6, as demand for ethanol-blended gasoline decreased the prior week, while plant output and inventories increased. Margins only dropped slightly as corn prices also fell.

New Data on Chinese Growth, Emerging Market Industrial Output, and European GDP

October Chinese data showed different sectors continuing to expand at different paces. Data on manufacturing remained disappointing, but vehicle sales experienced a major upturn as the government’s latest stimulus program kicked in. Emerging market industrial production data improved broadly in recent months, though there were some exceptions (most notably, Brazil). A modest pace of GDP growth continued in Europe during the third quarter.

Lows Not Safe

The November WASDE has made it even more difficult to be constructive across the board. While new lows were made this week in major contracts with the exception of SRW, those lows are very vulnerable in our opinion.

U.S. Stock Surplus Widens

The total commercial stock build for the week of November 6, compared to a draw last year, widened the total commercial stock surplus to the largest of the year. Crude stocks built in spite of crude runs increasing sharply, and we expect crude runs to continue to increase as refinery turnarounds rapidly decline in the next few weeks. Overall export-adjusted and HDD-normalized product demand growth has been struggling of late, down 1.1% over the most recent four weeks. Year-to-date adjusted product demand is up 0.46 MMB/D, or 2.5%. The most recent employment news is positive, even as the industrial sector lags.

Tighter Balances, But Still Anxious for More Seasonal Heating Loads

With November at nearly the halfway point, the market is being driven not only by weather that is on track to average ~15% milder than the 10-year normal, but also by a supply trajectory that for now appears aware of the market’s limitations with 4.0 TCF in stocks and its heavy reliance on price-induced gains from coal-to-gas substitution.

Eastern Grid/ERCOT Market Forecast: November 2015

On-peak prices fell month-on-month in most markets as cooling loads and gas prices both faded. Price increases were observed only in New England (the only market to see stronger gas prices) and at MISO's TX hub. Despite a strong October employment report suggesting a healthy economy, weather-adjusted loads declined across the East. Unadjusted loads fell by 2.8 aGW from the prior year. Gas prices have been revised down with larger adjustments at the front end of the forward curve, particularly in the Northeast markets. As a result, power price forecasts have also been reduced with the exception of the Ontario market (up about $2/MWh). Implied heat rate projections are mostly higher than in last month's report.

Ethanol Values Decrease Again

U.S. ethanol prices followed corn futures lower. In its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate the USDA projected higher corn production and lower consumption, a bearish signal.

Nervous Markets

While the world rightfully focused on the horrific Paris attacks over the weekend, traders wondered what it would mean to U.S. equity markets, oil prices, and the dollar. Grain traders spent the weekend lamenting what Friday’s new low closes for corn and soybeans would mean come Sunday night.

Japanese Runs Begin Rising, Crude Stock Bulge Corrects Back Downward

Crude runs increased as turnarounds wind down. Crude imports moved sharply lower allowing crude stocks to correct back downward after the large build seen the previous week. Finished product stocks drew again due to declines in naphtha and kerosene stocks. Gasoline and gasoil stocks changed only slightly. Margins remain good and strengthened on the week due to higher cracks for middle distillates and naphtha.

It Will Take Time For U.S. Shale Oil Activity To Pick Up Once Crude Prices Recover

Massive industry layoffs and the reduction in inventory of working drilling rigs will contribute to a slow recovery in activity once oil prices start to rebound in 2016. Several sources estimate that the industry has so far lost around 200,000 jobs worldwide and many drilling rigs have been scrapped. In addition, banks and operators will want to see improved prices for a sustained period of time (i.e. several months) before increasing lending and drilling activity respectively. The high activity levels experienced in 2014, when WTI was close to $100/Bbl, will probably not be seen for many years.

Record Norwegian Exports for November Hint at Aggressive Defense against LNG

But this is not just a story of the traditional pas de deux between spot and oil-indexed gas prices, as plenty of fundamental evidence for weakness is also in plain sight. Let’s start on the supply side with Norwegian gas exports, which are not just well above normal for November; they are approaching an all-time high for any month on record. Why Norway would be exporting record amounts of gas when we are experiencing a year-on-year decrease in weather-based demand is a root issue here.

European Oil Demand Growth Finally Turns Positive in 2015

After a decade of negative oil demand growth, demand turned higher this year. Demand growth was centered in Mediterranean Europe and got a significant boost from oil demand in Turkey. While lower oil prices were clearly helpful in boosting demand, economic growth is still too anemic to account for all the positive growth. Our demand model includes only the key drivers of oil demand like price and GDP; other unspecified factors are implicitly included in our forecast error. Evidence points to the positive role these unspecified, non-traditional factors played in oil demand growth this year.

Asian Stock Levels Lend Support to Winter Spot Price Run-Up

Storage availability for Asia’s key utility buyers has played a role in the recent uptick in imports, though it is nowhere near as big as current estimates of available capacity might suggest. PIRA estimates for end Sept. storage levels across Asia show storage levels between 55% to 70% of capacity for the top buyers.

Key Indicators, Commodities Fall

The S&P 500 moved lower for the week, having its worst week in three months. Most of the related indicators deteriorated (Russell 2000, volatility, and U.S. high yield credit, emerging market bond credit). Overall, commodities declined rather sharply, both energy and ex-energy. With regard to currencies, the U.S. dollar was again mostly stronger. U.S. government bond yields have continued to inch higher on short and longer term maturities as markets continue to contemplate the Fed raising short-term rates at their next meeting which will conclude December 16th.

U.S. Shale Oil Operators Point Towards Continued Declining Activity & Production

Capex spending has fallen dramatically through the course of 2015, resulting in a lower rig count, and for the first time quarter-on-quarter (Q/Q) production decline of shale oil in the U.S. In 3Q15, PIRA estimates that U.S. shale crude and condensate production declined by about 3.2% Q/Q to 4,200 MB/D. Shale operators that have reported guidance (about a third of total shale oil production) point to a further 3.8% Q/Q decline in 4Q15.

Iran and Iraq Come to Deal on Natural Gas

Iran has signed a new contract with Iraq to export natural gas to the country’s southern port city of Basra. Based on the contract, Iran will pipe 20-25-mmcm/d of gas to Basra for a period of six years. The supply – that will increase to 45-60-mmcm/d in a later stage – will be used to feed the main power plant of the city. Exports will start with an initial supply of 7-mmcm/d for three years and will then increase to the target volume.

Global Equities Decline Broadly

On the week most of the tracking indices lost ground, with some falling back sharply. In the U.S, only “utilities” managed a small gain. The worst performers were retail, consumer discretionary, and energy. Most of the international indices also posted losses with only the Japanese tracking index able to post a largely neutral performance.

November Weather: U.S., Europe and Japan Warm

At midmonth, November looks to be 14% warmer than normal on the 10-year-normal basis for the three major OECD markets. On a 30-year-normal basis the markets are 21% warmer. The November forecast takes into account first half actual weather and the current forecast for the rest of the month.

The information above is part of PIRA Energy Group's weekly Energy Market Recap - which alerts readers to PIRA’s current analysis of energy markets around the world as well as the key economic and political factors driving those markets.

Click here for additional information on PIRA’s global energy commodity market research services.

PIRA Energy Group
3 Park Avenue, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10016

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