03
Jan

Thursday – Oil Inventory Preview

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Commodity Watch:

  • Crude Oil: Hit $100; Closed up $3.64 to $99.62. Suddenly all the comment shifts to recession. As if at $95 we were safe but at $100, whoa, watch out. In reality only one contract traded at $100 which is meaningless. Oil is trading off slightly this morning before the inventory numbers.
  • Mexico Reports Rough Seas Shutter Export Points. Once again a cold front forced the closure of Mexico's primary Gulf side ports on Wednesday through which 80% of the countries exported oil flows. A Pemex statement said exports would not be affected if the closures last only one day
  • Inventories Expectations (from the Dow Jones survey):

exp-010208aaa.jpg

Z Comment: Bloomberg sees a bit bigger draw on crude but some trader/analysts are already looking for a build siting year end inventory squaring for tax purposes. Imports rebounded last week and this week's numbers will again be dependent on imports remaining high. The reaction to today's report will likely be severe with any shortfall in the crude draw driving oil multiple dollars lower. I also would not be surprise to see a bigger draw on distillates but obviously crude will be foremost in trader's minds. 

  • Natural Gas: rallied $0.37 to close at $7.85, a five week high as bitterly cold weather gripped the country. A general warming is expected to begin today culminating in above average temps by the weekend for most parts of the U.S. and this morning, natural gas is trading off a dime in the early session. The Gas Inventory report will be released Friday at 10:30 EST.

Holdings Watch:

CALLS: 

  • (CHK) Entered February $37.50s for $3.10. 
  • (APA) Entered January $110s for $3.10.
  • (RIG) Exited half of January $135 call position for $12, up 11% since entry on 12/19/07. Time to play with house money here. 

PUTS: No action. 

STOCKS: No action.

Stocks We Care About Today:

The "Marking To Market" of estimates: I'm seeing a daily move in estimates now as analysts tweak their numbers prior to reporting season which is still a ways off, especially for the producers who have to not only report numbers but get reserve reports out the door. In general:

  • Majors estimates are drifting higher into earnings season. At $1.92, (XOM) is facing its biggest 4Q ever.
  • E&P earnings and cash flow estimates are marching north.
  • Refining estimates are being inched south.
  • Oil service appear mostly flat to slightly down.

(FTI) Gets Nearly A $B In Orders From (TOT). $980mm to be exact in deepwater production and processing systems for Total's Pazflor project off Angola. First shipments are due in 2009 and should significantly boost an already stout earnings profile. 

(SOLF) Signs 3 Solar Wafer Contracts. In aggregate, its worth $230 million over 7 years but it helps them get to one  of their capacity goals by mid year of 350 MW. I watch (SOLF) and (YGE) closely among the solars as they trade at the cheapest multiples but seem to be announcing solid news for their size.

Odds & Ends

Analyst Watch: (GRP) cut to hold at Stiffel, (MUR) cut to hold at BS, FTI raised to neutral at Wachovia.

Seismic Watch: Petroleum Geo-Services reports fleet utilization fell to 69% in 4Q07 from 89% a year ago. Based on the company's statement it sounds like a combination of company specific (logistical) events and slightly weaker demand for 3D surveys were to blame for the drop. No alarm bell for the group or for drilling yet but worth noting.

96 Responses to “Thursday – Oil Inventory Preview”

  1. 1
    zman Says:

    news story out quoting PBR as saying they will not pass along higher prices to customers. should not be a shock to investors since they rarely raise gasoline prices anyway (last time was 2005) but it may be the reason for the slight dip this am.

  2. 2
    scoop006 Says:

    Z- Any thoughts on the DO selloff. Buying opportunity in Jan $140-145?

  3. 3
    zman Says:

    Scoop – I would not in front of inventories as today’s report is likely to send oil either $2 lower or $2 higher. Lower and the stocks sell off more, higher and the broad market gets hit … and the stocks may sell off more (your stereotypical double-edge sword). Did not see any news, could be profit taking.

  4. 4
    zman Says:

    CHK finally getting a little respect.

    Kudos to Dman with the hot hand in energy service… FTI gets big contract today.

  5. 5
    zman Says:

    NFX playing catchup but its meaningless in front of today’s storage numbers. Anybody out there. I’ve been working on a post and just noticed nobody’s at home here.

  6. 6
    scoop006 Says:

    Z- someone just traded 1000 call contracts for DO Jan $145

  7. 7
    Nicky Says:

    Morning all – wti – we may need one more leg up for iii but there are also enough legs to say it is done. Either way its very nearly done! The pullback in iv should go below 95.

  8. 8
    zman Says:

    Scoop – it was not me.

  9. 9
    zman Says:

    it was however a straight up trade, not a spread, someone thinks they know something about the oil report or about some DO news.

  10. 10
    Brian08 Says:

    Hey what’s up all…Happy New Year…Here’s to a profitable 2008…

    Good to see CHK off to the races in 2008, this might be the year when they finally get their appreciation to the NAV that they think they should be at…

  11. 11
    zman Says:

    Happy ’08 Brian!

    Re CHK, saw a Robinson Humphrey Sun Trust analyst quote last night re CHK’s VPP deal yesterday. Went something like this: the VPP will have a very modest impact on valuation here.

    Could they be any more lukewarm? Sell 2% of your reserves for 15 years at a 6% discount for $1.1 billion. Reinvest $1.1 B in 30% IRR projects. Yeah what a “modest” deal that is, lol.

  12. 12
    Brian08 Says:

    Hey I remember what IRR is, do they??? Hahaha…

  13. 13
    scoop006 Says:

    XTO up 3%+

  14. 14
    Nicky Says:

    inventory data leaked I wonder? either that or some jittery traders…

  15. 15
    zman Says:

    B – I think its sour grapes. The Street was worried they’d do a stock deal forever. Then they announced a Jefferies sub was doing everything for them for the next few years and no stock deal… so the Street goes from “watch out for dilution” to “what’s in it for my bank?”

  16. 16
    Brian08 Says:

    Agreed Nicky, breaking below $99…My first dumb trade of 2008 was to go short before the numbers…Figured get the first bad one (of many) outta the way the first week in January…

  17. 17
    zman Says:

    crude down 4 mm barrels.

    APA huge buy here, probably same from SU, PBR, DNR, DO oh yes , and XOM.

    Not a great report for the refiners as both products built

  18. 18
    Brian08 Says:

    I’m willing to bet somebody out there a Benji that Sharron Epperson’s head explodes on the trading floor before the end of 2008…Any takers on the ‘NO’ side?

  19. 19
    zman Says:

    Imports were up and still crude down. Cushing stocks held flat.

    Crude not reacting favorably although there is little to dislike I see. Could be that the report is just not seen as enough to support the recent move.

  20. 20
    sane Says:

    They put just under 1M in the spr last week

  21. 21
    Nicky Says:

    LOL Brian! She is never gonna survive the year!

    John Kilduff saying we are going over 100 today.

  22. 22
    Brian08 Says:

    Oil recovering now…

    Refiners…Are they getting killed just because we have $100 oil? I know they need RBOB (and products) to be high and oil to be low, but it seems like RBOB (and products) have done nicely lately…But is it that they haven’t kept up with the price of oil?

    And on these weekly reports what is good for refiners?? High utilization rates?

  23. 23
    zman Says:

    Sane: That’s just crazy at these prices. I know they say it’s a drop in the bucket but when the market is on edge like it is and we can’t get the oil in country you gotta ask what are they thinking???!!!

    Brian: No Bet!

    Saw Kilduff: Heaven help me I agree with him for today.

    Refiners just getting punished. Sometimes the best trade is to be absent for awhile. Product inventories are not compelling at this point for purchase of the group. Short them? Not right now as they may choose to jump if crude does.

  24. 24
    Brian08 Says:

    It’ll be interesting Nicky…Hopefully Kildork is right…I just flip-flopped my trade…

  25. 25
    zman Says:

    Brian,

    Products have done well but cracks remain low as crude has down very well. Also, non WTI light sweet grades have been trading over $100 already.

    High utilization is another double edge sword. This week it allowed the big builds in product inventories. Of course, you need some sort of utilization so that you are sending those liquid widgets out the door, you just want your neighbor to make less widgets while you make more.

  26. 26
    Brian08 Says:

    Z agrees with Kilduff…I just turned around and kissed my butt goodbye…The world must be coming to an end!!!

    And it would seem that it should hit $100 today…But I’m gonna just say I agree with you on this one, Z…

  27. 27
    apbd Says:

    Brian:
    Did you pass your courses? All A’s?
    apbd

  28. 28
    Nicky Says:

    I had wondered if the were building up the SPR ahead of a potential attack on Iran or someone else attacking Iran and the Straits of Hormuz being closed but as you say at this price it seems crazy unless you think its going to 130 then maybe not!

  29. 29
    Nicky Says:

    I think we chop down to 95 ish and the assault on 100 plus is saved for next week.

  30. 30
    Brian08 Says:

    AP thanks for asking, fortunately we’re on a “non-grade” grading system so I’m good to go…Scary thought is that I Aced my financial statement analysis final and I didn’t study a lick…Scary, scary thought there…Might be another sign of the apocolypse…

  31. 31
    zman Says:

    N: could easily go that way as well, traders flipping coins as I type.

  32. 32
    zman Says:

    $99 = new maginot line?

  33. 33
    zman Says:

    Ram … did you see NFX today? We’re just pennies short of an all time high.

  34. 34
    zman Says:

    Last year at about this time NFX released an @NFX report updating its hedge positions, a relatively minor event. They have not had an @NFX operations update since October and they may be planning to get a release out regarding Woodford shale 2007 exit rates in the next few days.

  35. 35
    zman Says:

    another crazy trade at $100…be the first one on your block to pay the most ever for 1,000 barrels of WTI!

  36. 36
    Nicky Says:

    It looks like we need that leg up…

  37. 37
    Nicky Says:

    4th attempt in 24 hours to get through – surely this time they will do it.

  38. 38
    kaman Says:

    Anyone have any perspective on why CME is getting hammered?

  39. 39
    zman Says:

    Nat gas turning positive with oil, SWN still most likely to move with it.

    several small crude trades at $100 even now

  40. 40
    Brian08 Says:

    Saw the tick on CNBC…Quickly off of it back down to $99.95…

  41. 41
    scoop006 Says:

    Kaman- Because I bought call contracts yesterday.

  42. 42
    zman Says:

    CME: CEO selling some shares? Unlike cause. Could it be over-valued? They trade at just over a 30 multiple of 2008, maybe its catching up to them.

  43. 43
    zman Says:

    oops there went a $100.05…what useless sport it is to type that.

  44. 44
    kaman Says:

    Scoop-
    Sorry to open that wound…I had CME 700 calls last week, but stop-lossed out before too much bleeding.

    I place alot of trust in Steve Smith over on RealMoney and his knowledge of Chicago exchanges…he’s gotta be hurtin’.

  45. 45
    Nicky Says:

    WTI – a move through todays low at 98.64 will indicate iii is done.

  46. 46
    zman Says:

    APA starting to green up nicely now. RIG starting to run.

    DO still languishing but better

    CAM and OII off to the races on the FTI contract. OII looks like a technical breakout.

  47. 47
    sane Says:

    API

    Crude Down 700K
    Distillate Up 4.7M
    Gasoline Up 6.9M

  48. 48
    zman Says:

    Sane,

    API numbers = holy crap!

  49. 49
    zman Says:

    Nat gas approaching $8, also think $8.50 is the near term top.

  50. 50
    Nicky Says:

    What discrepancy Sane! They are pretty bearish numbers.

  51. 51
    zman Says:

    HK in mini cup and handle breakout

  52. 52
    sane Says:

    Messed up indeed.

  53. 53
    zman Says:

    DO starting to move up as well, albeit slowly.

  54. 54
    ram Says:

    Yes and Yes.

  55. 55
    jiveyjr Says:

    OII breaking out again

  56. 56
    zman Says:

    J – OII I know as per #46. But I’m a cheap bastard and I was bidding options instead of taking the offer in the Febs.

  57. 57
    zman Says:

    drybulks perking up

    COP out saying its E&P arm boosted output in 4Q but refining margins stunk. This one is still cheap to its big brothers XOM and CVX.

  58. 58
    Nicky Says:

    Wow that looks too easy – the perfect spike up and then down she comes….

  59. 59
    zman Says:

    Tempting to short the refiners here based on high oil, continued weak margins, and the market’s predilection to punt anything that is not immediately working. Typically weak margined SUN has had a nice run, now trying to hold recently attained $70 level. Hmmm.

  60. 60
    zman Says:

    Nicky, are you wishing it lower, LOL?

  61. 61
    ram Says:

    Just say no to puts. Puts have been bad.

  62. 62
    zman Says:

    Just say yes to NFX, wow! About time. CHK moving up too, unbelievable.

  63. 63
    Denise Says:

    Nicky has company-
    Mr. Kass started to short energy early this am and is adding.
    He is also shorting service -OIH and buying Dug
    I am in agreement-a little too frothy
    I am lightening up

  64. 64
    zman Says:

    ZTRADE:

    Out APA Calls for $4.00; up 29% in 24 hours as crude is a bit rocky up here.

  65. 65
    Nicky Says:

    Z – I just love it when the count works out. But yes you know I think it is going lower…

  66. 66
    ram Says:

    PBR just can’t push through 119. It seems to be pinned by its upper BB.

  67. 67
    ram Says:

    Z – You have mentioned the 119 level a couple of times for PBR. Three strikes and you are out?

  68. 68
    ram Says:

    Z – Rumor has it you’re buddy Cramer is going to bless a NG stock tonight. He has been riding XTO for all of 2007. That’s probably why XTO is trading as high as it is.

  69. 69
    gaamblor Says:

    Do the numbers from EIA and API match up over time? Is there a chart that compares the two for each of the categories?

  70. 70
    sane Says:

    gaamblor,

    Their totals are usually in the same ballpark as each other. They do diverge from one another time to time, but usually snap back at a point.

  71. 71
    Dman Says:

    Denise – Many of the service stocks are way off their highs, but the commodities have increased substantially in the meantime. On strict valuation terms they don’t seem exorbitant, especially when you consider the growth rates.

    So what is Mr Kass’s thesis? Is it tied to his economic view? In other words, does he think that energy demand will vanish as the world is driven into depression by the Florida housing market? Or is it a short-term trading view?

  72. 72
    Denise Says:

    Dman-good question-He does not always share his reasoning-but is right more than wrong. I think it is a shortterm call like Nicky’s
    He said he doesn’t think $100 will hold
    Large managers seem to go for the ETF’s
    Other reasons for his view might be-someone was kind enough to share a Stratfor newsletter saying geopolitical risks are probably abating
    in 2008-maybe that is it. I am sure he subscribes all the big guns do-
    it is a widely followed and highly regarded newsletter.

  73. 73
    scoop006 Says:

    By his own admission Doug Kass is “early” on many trades, but usually right

  74. 74
    Denise Says:

    My other thought I neglected to mention
    was he was one of a few passing along the Osama Bin Ladin rumor yesterday. He does not post off the cuff-maybe there is something afoot and as Z said might be a small negative for oil.
    I am beginning to laugh at myself-sound like a like I’m theorizing on Kennedy’s assassination

  75. 75
    scoop006 Says:

    Denise,If OBL is ever captured/killed I would expect the surviving terrorists to launch retalitory attacks against the West thereby increasing the terror premium in the price of oil. JMHO

  76. 76
    zman Says:

    Ok, I’m back, had to run to a lunch. Glad to have sold the APA with oil off a buck. Otherwise, it doesn’t look I missed much except natural gas falling $0.20 with oil (a ridiculous connection there).

  77. 77
    ram Says:

    Z – OBTW, WF has NFX 52WH at 58.08.

  78. 78
    zman Says:

    Had lunch with a former ethanol and bio-diesel company president. Kind of what I thought on those two industries but some new angles to run down.

    Ram – that’s a bad and therefore meaningless trade from 8/17/07.

  79. 79
    Sambone Says:

    12:34 pm EST

    Nymex Crude Breaches $100; US Stockpiles Drop

    By Matt Chambers
    Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

    NEW YORK — Crude oil futures breached $100 a barrel for the first time ever Thursday, after U.S. crude oil inventories fell more than expected.

    Light, sweet crude for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose as high as $100.09 a barrel, a record high for a front-month contract, before slipping back below the triple digit level. The contract was recently up 8 cents at $99.70 a barrel. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange was recently up 27 cents to $98.11 a barrel, after hitting a new record $98.50 a barrel before the data.

    A bigger-than-expected build in gasoline inventories in the weekly U.S. inventory report and no change in stockpiles at the Cushing, Okla., delivery point for New York crude futures tempered the price rise, traders said.

    “Now $100 has been broken through, I think we’ll see crude go over it regularly in January,” said Peter Beutel, president of trading advisory firm Cameron Hanover in New Canaan, Conn. “We’re seeing the Federal Reserve showing signs of continuing to cut interest rates, oil supply isn’t keeping up with demand and OPEC is showing no sign of trying to bring down prices.”

    Nymex crude touched a record intraday high of $100.00 a barrel Wednesday on trade of single 1,000-barrel contract.

    Crude stockpiles dropped 4 million barrels to 289.6 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 28, the department’s Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report. That was the lowest since January 2005, and compared with an average forecast of a 1.7 million-barrel draw in a Dow Jones Newswires survey of 15 analysts.

    Gasoline stockpiles rose 1.9 million barrels to 207.8 million barrels, compared with an average survey estimate of a 1.3 million-barrel gain. Distillate stockpiles rose 600,000 barrels to 127.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ forecasts of a 600,000-barrel draw.

    Refinery use rose 1.3 percentage points to 89.4% of capacity. Analysts had expected a 0.4 percentage point gain.

    Crude oil stockpiles at Cushing were unchanged at 17.5 million barrels.

    The big draw in crude oil stockpiles, which was the seventh straight drop, is being partly attributed to refiners running down inventories to avoid end-of-year tax.

    “We have another large draw-down in inventories, which is bullish, said trader Stephen Schork, who also edits energy market newsletter, the Schork Report. He added that stockpiles should start to build again this month.

    Front-month February reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, fell 2.67 cents, or 1%, to $2.5422 a gallon. February heating oil fell 1.57 cents, or 0.6%, to $2.7247 a gallon.

    Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have indicated that they have no plans to convene before their scheduled Feb. 1 meeting.

    –By Matt Chambers, Dow Jones Newswires

  80. 80
    Sambone Says:

    Just got back, looks like their spanking the refiners pretty hard today.

  81. 81
    zman Says:

    Wow big oil rally into the close, I blinked and it went from down a buck to down $0.30.

  82. 82
    zman Says:

    Sam Re 80…yeah, pretty ugly data for them , oil down, products up and all …

  83. 83
    Nicky Says:

    Yep bounce into the close leaves it wide open as so far only 3 waves down.

  84. 84
    Sambone Says:

    ENERGY MATTERS

    January Pattern Hints At Higher Oil Prices Ahead

    By DAVID BIRD
    A DOW JONES NEWSWIRES COLUMN

    NEW YORK — Crude oil futures prices wasted little time heading into triple-digit territory Wednesday for the first time on the first trading day of the year.

    If historical trading patterns hold, Nymex crude oil prices look likely to continue to move above Wednesday’s intraday peak of $100 a barrel.

    A review of settlement prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange shows that in the 24 full years of trading since 1984, the average front-month price during January was the lowest for the year more often than any other month.

    In eight of 24 years, January’s average price was the lowest monthly level of the year.

    In the most extreme example, on the opening day of 2005 trading, Jan. 3, crude futures dropped 3%, to a settlement price of $42.12 a barrel. That proved to be the lowest of the year, as prices on Aug. 30 settled at $69.81 a barrel, a gain of 65.7% from that year-starting low.

    February-delivery crude oil futures surged 3.8% on Wednesday to settle at a record-high $99.62, down slightly from the record triple-digit mark.

    Prices are now poised to challenge the modern-day record for U.S. crude oil, an inflation adjusted cash-market price of $102.81 a barrel, which was hit in early 1980.

    Cheapest Contract Costliest Ever
    The price strength Wednesday carried forward through the market. The cheapest price for a crude contract listed on the exchange Wednesday was a record $87.54, for oil to be delivered between December 2011 and June 2012.

    February-delivery heating oil futures set a record high close of $2.7404 a gallon, up 3.4% on the day, while gasoline futures also settled at a record — at $2.5784 a gallon, up 3.3%.

    The torrid start to 2008 follows one of the most volatile years in crude trading. The average settlement price for crude in 2007 of $72.34 was a record high, but a fairly modest gain of $6.12 a barrel in contrast to rises of recent years. The annual average gain of 9.2% from a year ago was about half the size of the 17% rise in 2006 and the slimmest since 2002.

    Despite the modest size of the rise, prices set a monthly record average in November of $94.93, a 59.8% jump from a year earlier. The December average price slipped 3.4% from that peak, to $91.74 a barrel, a jump of 47.8% from the prior year.

    Crude oil prices were arguably twice as volatile than in the past three years and posted the broadest swings since 1999. Before Wednesday, the highest-ever settlement price since trading began on the New York Mercantile Exchange in March 1983 was $98.18 a barrel hit on Nov. 23, 2007.

    Big Price Swings In 2007
    That was a huge 94.5% higher than the lowest settlement price of the year of $50.48 a barrel on Jan. 18 (which was the lowest since May 24, 2005). The price difference of $47.70 a barrel was more than twice the $23.76 average high-low settlement differential in the past three years.

    The 94.5% high-low swing of 2007 was the biggest since 1999, when the Nov. 22 settlement of $27.07 was 2.4 times larger than the year’s lowest settlement price of $11.37 a barrel, set on Feb. 16.

    The span of $47.70 a barrel between the high and low settlements of 2007 was three times larger than the average range of $15.53 a barrel over the previous 10 years, as prices burst into uncharted territory.

    Fundamentally, record prices come as U.S. crude oil inventories have tightened and stand at their lowest level since January 2005. Further declines, of around 1.7 million barrels, are expected to be reported Thursday at 10:30 a.m. EST, when the federal Energy Information Administration releases data for the week ended Dec. 28.

    Traders also are watching closely the reignition of violence in Nigeria’s crucial oil producing Delta region. Militant attacks in the key oil city of Port Harcourt on Tuesday reportedly claimed 13 lives.

    Nigeria is the fifth-biggest supplier of crude oil to the U.S. and accounted for more than 12% of crude imports in October, the latest U.S. data show. Nigeria shipped more than 1 million barrels a day on average to the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2007, about half of its daily output, according to the EIA.

    Nerves have been heightened in another key member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Algeria, which supplied 478,000 barrels a day of crude to the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2007, about 4.8% of total crude imports. A branch of al-Qaida has reportedly claimed responsibility for a bomb that killed at least four police officers on Wednesday, and followed Dec. 11 suicide bombings that killed at least 37 people.

    Traders said oil prices are also buoyed by the weak dollar, which is stimulating strong petroleum use in developing countries. A fresh injection of commodity fund cash in the new year may also be driving prices.

    Early Predictions May Be Curve Balls
    While historical trends point to the potential for higher prices, such a forecast is by no means unanimous. Average crude oil prices in January were the highest in the year on four occasions more than any other month.

    And in 2007, the market’s path shattered a seemingly reliable pattern that suggested that a drop in January’s average price versus December 2006 signaled a price decline was in the cards for all of 2007. The pattern, with an 82% reliability record, failed miserably in the year.

    Anyone tempted to project the course of a year’s trading on the first day may do well to consider the lessons of the 2007 Major League Baseball season.

    On opening day last April, the Kansas City Royals pasted the Boston Red Sox. But the Red Sox ended the season in October tied for the best record among baseball’s 30 teams, and went on to win the World Series. The Royals tied for the third-worst record.

    (David Bird is senior energy correspondent for Dow Jones Newswires.)

  85. 85
    Sambone Says:

    $100 OIL

    US Energy Act Won’t Undercut Prices For Years

    By IAN TALLEY
    Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

    WASHINGTON — The energy bill signed into law late last year — just weeks before oil hit $100 a barrel Wednesday — will have little impact on oil or gasoline prices for years, if at all.

    Although two of the biggest components of the wide-ranging bill — a renewable fuels mandate and new vehicle efficiency standards — focus on boosting fuel supply and curbing gasoline demand, they aren’t likely to ease pressure on tight crude and gasoline markets.

    “In the short term, of course, things aren’t going to change much,” said John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group.

    Oil futures rose Wednesday on supply fears after attacks in oil-producing Nigeria, a weaker dollar and portfolio shifting by funds in the new year. Last week, oil was buoyed in low volumes on news that Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani Prime Minister and opposition leader, was killed in a suicide attack. Adding further upward pressure, U.S. commercial crude-oil inventories continued a seven-week slide Thursday by falling 4 million barrels.

    The Energy Independence and Security Act — aimed at fundamentally changing the way the country uses energy — sets a rising mandate for renewable energy up to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022 and establishes higher fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks. Cars and light trucks — minivans and sport utility vehicles — will have to average 35 miles a gallon by 2020, a 40% increase from current levels.

    “The measures here in terms of government mandate — fuel efficiency, electricity usage, biofuels — are really long-term measures that will have a noticeable affect on demand growth rates, but are not short-term tools for managing price,” said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citigroup. “Demand is price inelastic in the short term; supply is inelastic in the short term,” he adds.

    Taking Time To Take Effect
    The new fuel efficiency standards, for example, are expected to ultimately cut oil consumption by more than a million barrels a day, but won’t fully take effect until late in the next decade. The first demand-reduction effects of new fuel economy standards won’t be felt for at least three years, the time it takes to design and retool the manufacturing process, Evans said.

    Although the new biofuels mandate will increase ethanol production to 9 billion gallons this year, from a 4.7 billion requirement last year, Tancred Lidderdale of the federal Energy Information Administration says the standard shouldn’t bring down prices at all.

    “In our forecast, we already calculated 2008 ethanol production, imports and biodiesel exceeding this new standard,” said Lidderdale, who directs a team responsible for short-term forecasting. “In October, ethanol output reached 7.3 billion gallons a year, and we’ve got another 2-3 billion gallons of capacity coming on in the next nine to 12 months.”

    In the EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, the agency predicted benchmark crude would average nearly $85 a barrel throughout the year, including another 400,000-barrel-a-day production increase from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

    Even then, Lidderdale says that there is bullish uncertainty in how much of the biofuels can actually be delivered to market.

    “There’s going to be plenty of ethanol capacity there, but it really does depend on this distribution issue,” he said. Given the relatively recent exponential rise in ethanol production, infrastructure bottlenecks still represent a major hurdle for biofuel market integration and offsetting gasoline use.

    Can’t Drive 55
    The government has so far shied away from three policies that could have the most immediate impact on price: opening up national stocks, enacting a gasoline tax and establishing a temporary national speed restriction.

    “If you want to have a noticeable use on oil prices, you would release crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — sending the market a clear message that $100 oil isn’t happening,” said Evans.

    While the White House said Wednesday it wouldn’t use the SPR to manipulate prices, but only in emergency supply disruptions, many Democrats in Congress are calling for its use with oil at $100 a barrel.

    “We need to have a more sophisticated approach towards managing our national’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday after oil hit $100 a barrel. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, has repeatedly called for the Bush Administration to relieve prices by tapping the SPR.

    Instead, the White House is using the high prices to push for increased domestic access to oil and gas exploration and production in areas currently off limits. And while few believe the Democrat-controlled Congress will allow greater access to currently closed areas, even if new acreage was granted, it would take nearly a decade for new supplies to come online.

    Another major policy tool is now completely in state government hands. In the 1970s, the last time oil prices hit record levels, Congress enacted a 55 mile-an-hour speed limit, but lawmakers repealed the decision in the mid 1990s, handing authority back to states. Department of Transportation spokesman Ian Grossman says the secretary now has no power to re-establish a lower speed limit, and isn’t considering pushing for a new national standard.

    —By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires

  86. 86
    Sambone Says:

    Z – You said you were going to work on some Solar names recently. FYI – I am finishing up a book called “Solar Revolution” by Travis Bradford. A very good read, worth the time. IMO

  87. 87
    zman Says:

    Sam:

    I bought these just after Christmas and am reading now:

    Solar Revolution

    Oil and the Future of Energy (Sci American)

    High Noon for Natural Gas

    and a guide to Alternative Energy in the Demystified series.

  88. 88
    zman Says:

    Ram – the SUN would have been good but you talked me out of it, LOL. 😉

  89. 89
    Sambone Says:

    Here is another good article in the Scientific American Mag on “A Solar Grand Plan”.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

  90. 90
    ram Says:

    Oh no, I thought you were after SU! Crapper!!

  91. 91
    ram Says:

    Z – Did you have a chance to mull over #66, 67, 68?

  92. 92
    zman Says:

    Sane to care of #70

    re 68. As for PBR and 119 that’s just the old high, it looks to need fresh news or higher oil to break it. I will lose the options below $115.

    re 69. Someone sent me an email saying he was going to tout CHK after the close. I hate to spread such rumors…that stock deserves to be higher on its own merits and I have no way of knowing if Cramer will pump CHK or catch OBL after the close.

  93. 93
    zman Says:

    Refiners getting beaten about the head pretty good. These will make a nice return soon.

  94. 94
    Denise Says:

    Cramer observation- It seems to me that
    there has been less and less of a “Cramer effect” on the stocks he mentions. He seems to have been less engaged the last six months -not coming up with much new-think his show is getting very tired-

  95. 95
    bill Says:

    z-

    do you like END here at 1.30

  96. 96
    zman Says:

    Bill – still own but the jury is out on them. They’ve done a good job with exploitation but are 0 for several on exploration. Recent deal that I saw but am still mulling. I can think of other places I like better among the single digit midget crowd that are not going to be watched as close on a well by well exploration basis.

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