On May 2nd, the United States’ waiver period that granted eight nations to continue importing Iranian oil without penalty has ended. The countries who granted extensions that ended are China, India, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. As of today, only Italy, Taiwan and Greece have halted their purchases of Iranian produced oil. The United States now faces the dilemma of either granting further extensions to the waiver thus backing down from their threats, or risk creating further global tension by sanctioning the countries that continue to do business with Iran.
On April 3 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill which will increase the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes for the state. Starting on July 1st the state tax on diesel fuel will increase by 19 cents to a total of 47 cents per gallon. The 67% increase will bump Ohio to the 6th highest diesel fuel tax rate behind only California, Pennsylvania, Washington, Indiana, and New Jersey. The tax on gasoline will be increased by 10.5 cents per gallon to a total of 38.5 cents per gallon. Ohio’s gasoline tax will remain lower than Pennsylvania and Indiana, but will be higher than its neighboring states, Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan.
Winter is upon us and if you haven’t noticed yet, you certainly will today. Wind chill in the northern plains of the country, near Minneapolis and North Dakota, is reportedly being recorded at around -61°. This Polar Vortex is being categorized as dangerous and life threatening and will also carry heavy snow with cities like Chicago experiencing high temperatures of -12°. That would be 4° colder than Mount Everest which is forecasted at a high of -8°.
So what is the polar vortex exactly? Essentially, there are two polar vortices in the Arctic which are described as a jet stream. This jet stream is present all year round, with the polar vortex appearing during the winter months. What causes the vortex is the temperature differences between the mid latitudes in Northern America, where the United States is and the cold air from high latitudes, the Arctic. These temperature differences cause the jet stream to flow from high-pressure environment in the mid latitudes to the lower pressure areas of the Arctic. The spinning of the Earth on its axis and wind patterns pushing the circling vortex cause parts of the vortex to break off and invade areas like the United States while warmer air is circulated towards the Arctic. Some see this as continuing evidence that global warming does in fact exist as the polar vortex jet stream weakens resulting in uncontained colder temperatures drifting south while, once frigid arctic climates, are becoming noticeably warmer.
The U.S. and China conclude their two-day trade talks in Beijing today with President Trump tweeting this morning “Talks with China are going very well!” This tweet and word that China had their top trade official, Liu He, attend the talks early this week have boosted equity and oil markets along with it as February WTI trades higher today to $49.42/barrel despite growing U.S. oil production.
Another commodity trading year is upon us and New Year’s resolutions across the western hemisphere are cloaked with purpose and resoluteness. Many have vowed to exercise more, eat healthy and save money. Even though only about 8 percent of these New Year’s resolution ambitionists persevere with their said goals, it is nonetheless a feeling of excitement and optimism of what might be. Market participants in the energy sector are most likely seeking that same sensation of excitement for less volatility and more stable prices, more clarity in supply/demand across the globe, transparency with trade talks/tariffs, pellucidity with Iran sanctions and possibly a reverse course in actions to avoid a further global slowdown or even a recession. If, however, the first 2 trading days of 2019 for the WTI futures contract for February delivery price action is any indication of what lies ahead, we are in for more of the same rollercoaster ride of uncertainty, high volatility and event risk price movements. The first trading day of the year brought on an intraday range of $3.43 a barrel or a 7.18% intraday move. Today, as of 12:30pm EST, we have already seen a 4.51% move or a $2.14 a barrel intraday trading range.