At midday on Monday, the petroleum futures market experienced mixed results, with some gains and declines. However, U.S. natural gas futures were particularly weak due to forecasts that did not predict any severe cold weather.
Natural Gas Futures
For the first half of 2024, the NYMEX natural gas futures displayed an average price of $2.22 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on Monday.
Crude Oil Contracts
The crude oil contracts showed sideways movement throughout the day, with small losses observed for both benchmarks. As midday approached, the February Brent contract decreased by 10 cents to $75.74 per barrel (bbl), while the NYMEX January West Texas Intermediate contract dropped 17 cents to $71.06 per bbl.
There are indications that gasoline prices may be in the early stages of reaching a bottom. Last week's low price of $1.998 per gallon (gal) for the NYMEX January RBOB contract has not been repeated. Currently, the January contract is down 0.4 cent to $2.0458 per gal. The retail median price for gasoline in the U.S. stands at $2.999 per gal, and there is a possibility of it reaching a new multi-year low by the end of the week.
Successful Year for Gasoline Retailers
As 2023 nears its end, it is shaping up to be the best twelve-month period ever for gasoline retailers. Over the last seven days, rack-to-retail margins averaged a strong 48.5 cents per gal, according to OPIS data. Diesel returns are also robust, with rack-to-retail margins averaging close to 86 cents per gal in the past week.
Despite limited enthusiasm for heating fuels, diesel futures managed to gain slightly at midday. The NYMEX January ULSD contract increased by 2.58 cents to $2.6068 in quiet trading.
Spot markets displayed mixed results, with gains of 2.5-3 cents per gal in New York and Chicago, while Gulf Coast values decreased by just over 2 cents per gal.
Cash Gasoline Prices
Cash gasoline prices mostly weakened, particularly in Chicago, where prices reached lows not seen since 2021. Discounts to the NYMEX widened to 37.5 cents, resulting in the cost of CBOB on various pipelines in the Chicago market dropping as low as $1.67 per gal.