I am trying to figure out who is getting beat up worse, the refiners or the dollar. The smack down on refiners and the dollar send oil on another bullish adventure as commodity price inflation starts to show its adverse economic effects. Refiners for the second week in a row kept refinery runs at historically low levels causing another large drop in gasoline supply which drove RBOB gasoline futures to a seven week high.
The Energy Information Agency reported that refinery use rates rose 0.2 percentage point to 81.1 well below average for this time of year with finished gasoline production at a paltry 8.46 million barrels a day. According to Bloomberg News that was the second week in a row that production fell below 8.5 million barrels and the lowest production was since the week of February 6. The EIA reported that gas supplies fell 2.3 million barrels in the latest week which followed a 5 million barrel plus drop in supply from the week before. Gasoline supply which were almost 7% above the five year average a few weeks ago are now just 3.3% above the five year average. Refiners might as well be on strike as they cannot continue to produce a product that people are buying less of as input prices like crude go up and the dollar weakens. The EIA reported that gasoline demand 3.3 percent from the prior week to an average 8.95 million barrels a day which was the lowest in four weeks.
Add to that another dollar drubbing which helped send oil soaring to another new high. The euro gained strength on speculation that rates in the "zone" could be rising and broke through the $150 level versus the U.S. dollar for the first time in 14 months. Overnight China 8.9% GDP growth was stimulating but is raising questions how long the Chinese government can fuel the growth. Car sales in China were impressive but came on the back of government tax breaks. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke wants the Chinese to spend more but also let the yuan re-adjust so the trade deficit between the US and China can narrow. Early on commodity prices are not that impressed with the Chinese GDP.
Now as oil prices go above $80 OPEC is worried what may happen to demand. Dow Jones is reporting that, "The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will increase its output quota in December, if inventories fall and oil prices and the economy keep recovering", the group's secretary general said Thursday. "If this price continues, if we see the stocks go back to the normal level" and the global economy continues to recover, "I am sure our member countries will take the decision to increase production," Abdalla Salem el-Badri told reporters. He subsequently added another condition to increase output would be "an end to floating storage." OPEC is due to meet next on Dec. 22 in Luanda, Angola. "OPEC is watching what is happening to US refiners and is aware that prices are now at a level that will start a new round of demand destruction and probably will start trying to jawbone the market down. They may be forced to start cheating on production to get prices under control. This would really be a shame because you know how these guys hate to cheat.
Republished with permission from Alaron's Energy Report Daily.