Asia’s light ends markets are expected to defy the retreat in crude futures, with gasoline supported by improving travel demand as regional economies reopen borders with the easing of the COVID-19 spread, and naphtha lifted by stronger European markets.
The LPG market awaits Saudi Aramco’s pending announcement of April term Contract Prices that are expected to show another increase amid Asian consumers’ concerns over escalating costs, says an article published in Platts.
Physical C+F Japan naphtha rose $43.50/mt from the previous Asian close to $1,009.50/mt in mid-morning trade March 28, fueled by a rebound in European naphtha and baulking crude’s downtrend.
Firmer sentiment was reflected in swaps, as brokers pegged front month April/May Mean of Platts Japan naphtha swap timespread at $20/mt in mid-morning trade, up $7.50/mt from the previous session, S&P Global Commodity Insights data showed. Northwest Europe crack was pegged by brokers at minus $1.50/b in mid-morning trade, up from minus $2.02/mt at the European close March. 25, S&P Global data showed.
Despite improved paper market sentiment, overall naphtha demand was slated to be weighed down by poor downstream margins, with the spread between CFR Far East Asia high-density poly ethylene film and C+F Japan naphtha cargo holding below the typical breakeven of $450/mt since late 2021, and was last assessed at $254/mt on March 25’s Asian close, down $67/mt week on week, S&P Global data showed.
Weak demand outweighed thin volumes of Western naphtha shipments — Europe -to -Asia fixtures loading in March totaled 695,000 mt, down from 1.36 million mt of the February-loading program, data from sources and S&P Global Platts cFlow showed.
Asia’s gasoline complex is expected to strengthen in the week starting March 28, as regional economies reopen borders to international travelers, market sources said.
Brokers pegged front-month FOB Singapore 92 RON gasoline crack against Brent swap in the $13.00/b-13.05/b range at 0300 GMT March 28, up from $11.12/b at the Asian close March 25, S&P Global data showed.
Driving activity is set to improve, as Singapore and Malaysia are set to reopen borders to international travelers April 1, market sources said.
The recent Houthi attack on a Saudi Aramco petroleum product distribution station in Jeddah is expected to impact gasoline, gasoil and fuel oil prices with cargo premiums being the first thing to increase, market sources said.
At 0300 GMT March 28, US RBOB-Brent crack spread widened 9.64% from the previous Asian close to $25.32/b, S&P Global data showed.
The widening spread was possibly fueled by US gasoline stocks falling by 2.95 million barrels to 238.043 million barrels on the week, in the week ended March 18, US Energy Information Administration
data released March 23 showed.
Front-month April propane contract price swap was indicated at $925/mt March 28, up from $923.5/mt valued the previous session, and $30/mt above the March term CPs.
The premium of butane to propane was indicated at $10/mt March 28.
With Saudi Aramco due to announce April term CPs by March 31, the new CPs looked set for a possible third consecutive increase, after the March CPs were the highest since February 2014, S&P Global data showed.
Traders are watching China’s appetite for LPG amid negative margins faced by propane dehydrogenation plants, which have prompted some plants to close for maintenance to limit operating. Operators such as Wanhua Chemical have sold on March 25 a 23,000 mt propane parcel for H2 April delivery, indicating ample supply.
But North Asian crackers may continue to seek LPG as alternate feedstock, with the discount of April FEI propane swaps to Mean of Platts Japan naphtha assessments pegged on March 28 at $68.84/mt versus $66.25/mt the previous session.
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