US ethanol market liquidity evaporates as traders await more data

Source: By Josh Pedrick, Platts • Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trading activity in the US ethanol market dwindled to to minimal levels on Monday and into Tuesday morning as players remained on the sidelines.

“This is the slowest day I think I have ever seen,” said one market participant.

Sources were divided about the cause of the illiquid market.

Prices rose on October 13 and 14 following bullish US Energy Information Administration data and one source said the market could be taking a break after the increases.

The EIA data has shown producers carrying out seasonal maintenance for the past several weeks, with stocks finding some relief during that time. That has supported prices over the past month, but it might not be enough now.

Last week’s EIA data showed production at its lowest level since June. Stocks also fell 784,000 barrels.

But if producers are at the height of seasonal maintenance now, production will only likely rise going forward.

And the crush margin is currently hovering near an 18-month high, encouraging producers to exit maintenance at the highest run rate they can manage.

The draw in stocks failed to translate into much immediate support. Exports have been loading and departing for weeks, so a significant fall in stock levels was expected to show up in the data at some point.

The majority of the stock draw, 762,000 barrels of it, was from the East Coast. One source said many of those barrels could be in transit on oceangoing barges and reappear in this week’s data.

That has left market participants waiting for this week’s EIA data before diving into the market.

“It’s beginning to feel like more of a lack of sellers,” said one source.