Oil bulls counting on the Fed

The oil (NYMEX:CLU13) bulls that have controlled oil for the month of July are in trouble. With near record long positions in both Brent and WTI crude and chart formations that are looking ominous they need the Fed to justify their bullishness. Oh sure, we have a lot of other data, such as GDP and the ADP employment report, Chicago Fed not to mention the Energy Information Administration supply report but what the bulls need is reassurance that the Fed will keep the bull market alive.

The American Petroleum Institute supply report seems to suggest a return to normal. Forget those wild inventory drops it seems like we have found a more normal balance. Crude oil inventory did fall but by only by 740,000 barrels. As crude imports rebounded after Canada resolved some pipeline issues. Crude imports rose last week by 116,000 barrels per day to 7.882 million bpd.  Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, and delivery hub fell by 1.9 million barrels as the Big Whiting refinery being back on line helped sop up extra supply that normally would be sitting in Oklahoma for a while.  Refinery crude runs fell by 162,000 barrels per day as refining issues slowed the recent refiner's historic momentum. Despite the slight drop in runs gas inventories increased by 1.8 million barrels yet distillate fell by 497,000 barrels. Not the kind of numbers that would inspire the increasing worried bull side of the market.

The bulls seem to also be getting some diminishing support from turmoil in Egypt and a provocative report on Iran's nuclear ambitions.  Bloomberg Reported "Iran may achieve by mid-2014 the "critical capability" to process its low-enriched uranium into fuel for a nuclear weapon without detection by international inspectors, according to a report by a research group. Iran would reach this capability by acting on plans to install thousands of additional enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz and Fordow sites, according to David Albright, a former nuclear inspector, and Christina Walrond of the Washington-based Institute for Sciences and International Security.  Preventing Iran from achieving the capability to break out from nuclear safeguards will require international efforts to limit the number and type of centrifuges that the Islamic Republic builds, according to the report issued today.  "Although increasing the frequency and type of inspections at the enrichment plants is important, it is by no means sufficient to prevent Iran from achieving critical capability," according to the analysts."  In Egypt the military is asserting control. Despite recent violence it seems that the market is downplaying risk to supply or at the very least have already priced in a premium that is sufficient based on recent moves.

So that brings us back to the Fed. Never has an announcement that may say so little but will influence so much. When it comes to tapering we know it's the 6 degrees of tightening. The nuances of perception could move us one way or the other. The Fed has gone to great lengths to explain that tapering isn't tightening but in a world of negative real interest rates it really is. Besides you have to taper before you raise rate, unless you go cold turkey. Tapering is tightening if only in the loosest sense. And with tightening, if the data gets worse you can always reverse it. Yet markets are coiled like a snake ready to move assuming the Fed provides an illusion to feed into the trader's delusions.

Natural gas still is under the weight of historically low temperatures for the month of July! There are no air-conditioners humming and power demand should be below what you might expect for this normally hot and sticky time of year. Low nat gas prices though should inspire some nat gas fuel switching.

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