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AMERICAS BUNKERS: Key market indicators Feb 22-26

Highlights

USGC bunker prices rise in cautious market impacted by winter freeze

Panama prices rise, pushed by USGC conditions

Spot bunker fuel prices were impacted by winter weather in the US Gulf Coast during the week of Feb. 15-19, leading to rises in some ports in the Americas, such as Balboa, and slight changes in others.

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US GULF COAST

** Retail bunker markets on the Gulf Coast started the last week of February looking for a foothold after being impacted by freezing weather and a collapse in supply in Texas where terminals and some refinery plants had to be shut.

** Market sources faced uncertainty in prompt pricing due to difficult logistics amid faltering power supply and operations in the region. "Only really quoting things a week out or more," a market source said Feb. 18. "The next five-seven days are going to be efforts only, as the (Houston) port is in total disarray and there are too many unknowns in the air."

** The ex-wharf price for marine fuel 0.5%S in the port of Houston rose $8/mt to $478/mt over Feb. 16-19, with markets shut for a US holiday on Feb. 15. In New Orleans, price for the fuel also climbed by $8/mt to $483/mt over the same period.

** Marine fuel 0.5%S on the bulk market, however, fell $7.50/mt to $469.25/mt, as activity remained limited in the week to Feb. 19, when power and operations began to be restored in the Houston area.

** Marine gasoil in Houston rose $23/mt over Feb. 16-19, to $563/mt. In New Orleans, the fuel also moved up $23/mt over the same period to $568/mt.

** This segment was propped up by the NYMEX prompt-month ULSD futures contract, which rose 0.5% to $1.8229 cents/gal over the same period.

LATIN AMERICA

** In Latin America, even as prices in the energy complex mostly fell last week, spot pricing in Panama showed increases, as the port absorbed part of the demand that Houston wasn't able to meet due to the winter storm, market sources said.

** The 0.5%S in Balboa rose $7/mt (1.4%) to $497/mt, while marine gasoil trekked up $42/mt to $565/mt.

** As Panama imports most of its bunkers from the Gulf Coast, another factor supporting the increase was the higher cost of resupply due to the halt in operations after the freeze. This continued to be the case on Feb. 22, market sources said.

** In Brazil, marine gasoil in Santos surged $71/mt day on day Feb. 19, leading to an overall rise of $64/mt (11.3%) over Feb. 16-19. The day-on-day jump was due to state-led Petrobras increasing its diesel prices by 14.7% to 48 cents/liter on Feb. 19, to keep in lockstep with the recent rally in global oil markets and maintain parity with international imports.

** Brazil's neighbor to the south, Uruguay, also saw a steep increase. MGO in Montevideo jumped $25/mt (3.6%) to $710/mt over Feb. 16-19. A similar rise was registered for 0.5%S, which rose $20/mt (3.4%) to $600/mt over the same period.

** In Ecuador, bunker fuels also rose, with an $8/mt (1.5%) rise to $548/mt in 0.5%S. High sulfur IFO 380, which in recent months has moved less abruptly, rose $13 (4.2%) over Feb. 16-19 in Guayaquil to $325/mt.

** Other Latin American ports continued to show slight retreats over the same period. In Buenos Aires, 0.5%S declined $2/mt to $493/mt, while marine gasoil fell $11/mt to $569/mt -- around the same level it was at the beginning of February. Sources said the port was experiencing a revival in demand after around three weeks of slow activity.

** Sources also talked about slow activity in Cartagena, where prices showed no change week on week for 0.5%S, which was assessed at $492/mt on Feb. 19, and marine gasoil assessed at $591/mt Feb. 19.

US EAST, WEST COASTS

** Along the US Atlantic Coast, most ports saw declining prices most of last week.

** However, sources reported tight supply in Philadelphia on higher sulfur bunker grades, supporting a slight rise in IFO 380 there.

** Prices fell on the West Coast, following steep declines in underlying Singapore values throughout the week.