WTI crude oil prices fell to their lowest point since early February on Thursday, giving up virtually all gains since Russia invaded Ukraine. WTI crude for September delivery tumbled -1.5% to close at $89.26/bbl while Brent crude for October delivery fell -2.1% to $94.71/bbl. WTI crude has lost ~9.5% over the course of the week, marking the largest one-week percentage decline since April amid growing fears that oil demand will collapse when western nations descend into a full-blown recession.
While oil producers are certainly beginning to feel the heat, it’s refiners like Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO), Marathon Petroleum Corp.(NYSE: MPC), and Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) who have been hardest hit by the pullback thanks to a sharp decline in their refining margins aka crack spreads.
For months, refiners have been enjoying historically high refining margins, with the profit from making a barrel of gasoil, the building block of diesel and jet kerosene, hitting a record $68.69 in June at a typical Singapore refinery. The margin later settled in the high 30s a few weeks later, a level still nearly four times higher than the $11.83 at the end of last year, and some 550% above the profit margin at the same time in 2021.
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