Analysis by Alan Apthorp
Oil markets have generally followed an upward trajectory this week, though prices remain range-bound overall. Crude has not significantly deviated from its $75-$81 trading range since last November, when prices were in the $90/bbl range. Diesel prices have continued hovering around the $2.75-$2.90 range, while gasoline is in the $2.30-$2.50 zone.
This past week, the EU implemented its embargo on Russian diesel. So far, prices have seen a muted response, thanks to stockpiling among European suppliers before the embargo hit. High supplies will minimize the short-term impact, but markets now face a new structural constraint. Refined fuel markets already faced weakening refining capacity worldwide, with the US closing refiners and European strikes limiting output. Although stocks are high now, a persistent undersupply situation could eventually cause supplies to dwindle, leading to more volatility in the future. It will be important to keep a close eye on both US and EU diesel supplies over the next few months.
The economy remained a focal point for markets. Goldman Sachs reduced its forecasted probability of a 2023 US recession from 35% in 25%, citing the strong US labor market and improving business sentiment. China, however, reported some weaker travel data, which caused markets to fall back a bit.
This week the US saw strong inventory builds, which gave some confidence that supply conditions are improving. Crude oil built by 2.4 million barrels, while gasoline and diesel rose by 5.0 MMbbls and 2.9 MMbbls, respectively. Although refinery downtime is a challenge in certain areas such as Denver and Ohio, refiners overall are focusing on increasing their throughput to capitalize on high fuel prices.
Prices in Review
Crude oil began the week at $74.87 and trended higher for the remainder of the week. After a sharp drop on Thursday, prices opened this morning at $77.59, accounting for a gain of $2.72.
Gasoline ended the week higher than the previous week. Prices began around $2.35 on Monday and climbed to $2.4955 this morning, accounting for total gains of 14.5 cents (5.8%) this week.
Diesel prices closed out the week trading at $2.8521, which was over 15 cents higher than Monday’s trading of around $2.6896. Prices peaked on Wednesday at $2.9714 before falling back to the $2.80 range. This accounted for a gain of 7.76%.