U.S. DISTILLATE fuel oil inventories rose by +3 million barrels to 121 million barrels in the seven days ending on February 3. Inventories were -21 million barrels (-15% or -1.19 standard deviations) below the prior ten-year seasonal average, but the deficit has narrowed from -31 million barrels (-22% or -2.05 standard deviations) on October 7:
SINGAPORE’s inventories of distillate fuel oils have stabilised and increased slightly since nearing a multi-year low under 7 million barrels in early November. The increase has coincided with an acceleration of diesel exports from China and a slowdown in freight movements which have relieved some of the regional shortage. Nonetheless stocks are still -2.5 million barrels (-24%) below the prior ten-year seasonal average:
FRANKFURT and the rest of Northwest Europe are roughly half-way through the 2022/23 heating season. In the three decades between 1981 and 2010, on average 50% of heating degree days and heating demand at Frankfurt occurred before January 15. For London and southeast England, the half-way point arrives a few days later on January 23. So far this winter has been much milder than average. Frankfurt had accumulated 860 degree days up to January 15 compared with a long-term average of 1,078:
¹ Distillate fuel oil is an important fuel source for electricity generators designed to serve peak loads and provide emergency reserves. New England is particularly reliant on distillate to provide reserve generation and distillate units were heavily used during cold weather around Christmas. In the rest of the country, distillate is also used as lighting-up fuel for coal-fired units, which were heavily used during the extreme cold. Coal will not ignite on its own and distillate is sprayed into the furnace to provide initial combustion, heat up the furnace, establish air circulation, and support the combustion process until the flame is stabilised. As the coal combustion becomes self-sustaining, the distillate burners are gradually shut off.
² Failure of generators to start when instructed by the grid contributed to the shortfall in capacity in New England ISO region on December 24, as in other areas. Scheduled generation of 2,150 MW became unavailable. Failure to start remains one of the biggest problems for electric reliability during extreme cold events.
EUROPE’s gas futures prices no longer command a premium over futures for deliveries into Northeast Asia. Europe’s prices have fallen much more rapidly than Asia’s as fears of a winter emergency have faded. Europe’s futures are now trading at a slight discount for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. European importers are no longer paying a premium to attract cargoes which should leave more LNG cargoes available for consumers in Northeast and South Asia:
U.S. DISTILLATE STOCKS fell -1.4 million bbl over the seven days to December 30 (including drawdown of -0.7 million bbl in New England). Inventories were probably pulled forward along the supply chain to homes, offices and power generators as a result of extreme cold around Christmas:
¹ Running a “test” of the cold-start process at Drax on December 16 just four days after the coal-fired power plant received instructions (subsequently cancelled) to light up and prepare to generate for “real” on December 12 to help with insufficient reserve margins is interesting timing.
U.S. DISTILLATE inventories increased by +1 million barrels to 120 million barrels over the seven days ending on December 9. Stocks are still -16 million barrels (-12%, -0.79 standard deviations) below the pre-pandemic five-year average, but the deficit has halved from -34 million barrels (-24%, -2.05 standard deviations) on October 7. The biggest seasonal inventory accumulation for at least two decades has erased a large part of the previous shortage:
CHINA’s manufacturers reported a steep decline in activity last month as the economy buckled under pressure from city-level lockdowns. The official purchasing managers’ index slipped to 48.0 in November (1st percentile for all months since 2011), the lowest since April 2022, and before that the first wave of the pandemic in February 2020:
U.S. DISTILLATE inventories rose +4 million bbl to 113 million bbl last week. Stocks are still -20 million bbl (-15%, -1.04 standard deviations) below the pre-pandemic five-year average but the deficit has narrowed from -34 million bbl (-24%, -2.05 standard deviations) on October 7:
BRENT’s six-month calendar spread has fallen to a backwardation of $4.90 per barrel (95th percentile for all trading days since 1990) down from $7.60 (98th percentile) a month ago and a record over $15-20 in the first months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The softening spread is consistent with a recession in Europe and China, possibly spreading across the rest of the world, easing pressure on oil supplies in 2023:
U.S. TREASURY yield curve is now more inverted between two-year and ten-year maturities than at any time since September 1981 at the start of the second instalment of the double-dip recession. U.S. interest rate traders anticipate an exceptionally rapid turn around in monetary policy. Such a rapid pivot is consistent with a soft-landing allowing the central bank to unwind rate rises quickly, or because a hard-landing eliminates inflation and requires it to support growth and employment instead:
U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES depleted by -11 million barrels in the week to November 11. Large drawdowns in commercial crude (-5 million bbl), crude in the strategic petroleum reserve (-4 million) and other oils (-3 million) were partially offset by increased stocks of gasoline (+2 million), distillate fuel oil (+1 million) and jet fuel (+0.3 million). Total inventories have depleted by -509 million barrels since early July 2020, the largest drawdown on record and a symptom of persistent under-supply:
¹ The Politburo Standing Committee special study session on epidemic control is top news across all government-controlled media. Reverse engineering the official commentary, top leaders seem anxious to counter political and social fatigue with repeated lockdowns, reinforcing the current zero-covid strategy in the short term despite its rising costs, while also searching for a way out via improved vaccination rates and the development of new vaccines and therapeutic drugs.
U.S. SERVICE SECTOR prices increased at an annualised rate of +7.8% in the three months to October, more than three times faster than the central bank’s target, ensuring that interest rates are likely to continue rising:
BRITAIN’s economy entered a recession during the third quarter with real gross domestic product declining in three out of four months between June and September. So far the downturn has been led by manufacturing but is likely to spread to construction and services:
Japan appeals for winter electricity conservation ($BBG)
U.S. EAST COAST distillate fuel oil inventories were just 24 million barrels on October 21, compared with a pre-pandemic five-year seasonal average of 50 million barrels. The East Coast deficit (-26 million bbl) accounted for nearly all the nationwide deficit (-29 million bbl):
WESTERN EUROPE’s gas consumptionwas down in August and September by 14-15% compared with the pre-pandemic seasonal average for 2015-2019, as a result of high prices, industrial closures, a slowing economy, and energy conservation measures: