- Crude oil prices stayed within a narrow range, with significant refinery margin improvements.
- US commercial crude oil inventories surged by 5.52 million barrels.
- Gasoline and distillate stocks dropped, indicating increased demand.
- Midwest refinery utilization rates climbed to 95.1%, reflecting robust processing activity.
- Gold reserves in China increased, while US agricultural stock estimates show mixed trends.
This week, the energy sector experienced significant fluctuations across different metrics. Crude oil futures for April 2024 ICE Brent and March 2024 NYMEX WTI traded at $79.56/b and $74.18/b, respectively, offering insight into future market expectations. Refinery margins strengthened, indicating improved refinery economics. A notable rise in US commercial crude oil inventories by 5.52 million barrels suggests a shift in market dynamics.
Crude oil imports increased significantly by 1.3 million barrels per day (b/d) week over week (WoW), reflecting increased import activity. However, exports declined by 298,000 b/d WoW, highlighting the complex relationship between domestic consumption and global market demands. Additionally, crude production rose by 300,000 b/d, suggesting industry adjustments to market conditions or strategic planning.
Stocks Decline as Gasoline Demand Increases
Gasoline and distillate stocks saw significant reductions, with gasoline inventories dropping by 3.15 million barrels and distillate stocks by 3.22 million barrels over the week. This indicates strong demand or a tightening supply in the refined products market. Midwest refinery utilization rates surged to 95.1%, demonstrating the refining sector’s strength.
In pricing dynamics, RBOB Gasoline Cracks surpassed the $20/barrel (bbl) mark, reaching levels not seen since the previous September. Heating Oil Cracks also experienced a significant increase, moving from around $35/bbl at the year’s start to over $44/bbl. The European Gasoil Crack is trading at approximately $31/bbl, underscoring the global reach of refinery product markets.
Metals and Agriculture Insights
In the metals market, China’s gold reserves rose by 10 tonnes in January to 2,245.4 tonnes, possibly indicating strategic diversification or investment. Chinese refined copper production decreased by 3% month over month (MoM) to 970 kilotonnes (kt) in January, suggesting supply adjustments or demand changes within the sector.
In agriculture, US soybean ending stocks are projected to increase by 5 million bushels to 285 million bushels. Conversely, US corn ending stock estimates are expected to decrease by 13 million bushels to 2,149 million bushels, offering a detailed view of agricultural commodity stocks. Adjustments to Argentine corn and soybean output estimates and reduced production forecasts for Brazilian corn and soybeans highlight the complex global agricultural production and supply chain dynamics.