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Asia middle distillates - Key market indicators this week

Singapore — The Asian middle distillates complex is expected to remain firm this week, with industry participants saying that stronger demand seen for the second half of the year will lend some near-term support to the Asian jet fuel and gasoil markets.

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As airlines prepare to add additional flights in June and gasoil demand slowly returns as countries cautiously reopen their economies after lockdowns to contain the coronavirus, the improvement in sentiment will shore up prices for Asian middle distillates, market sources said.

JET FUEL/KEROSENE

** The balance month June/July Singapore jet fuel timespread opened the week on a firmer note at minus 80 cents/b June 1, up 5 cents/b from the previous Asian close at 0830 GMTon May 29 of minus 85 cents/b.

** Sentiment in the Asian jet fuel market has firmed as airlines pick up the pace of restoring domestic and international flights. China recorded more than 200,000 flights in May according to travel industry data and analytics consultancy Cirium, while South Korean carriers plan to resume international flights from June 1.

** As a result, the FOB Korea jet fuel cash differential climbed to minus $2/b to the Mean of Platts Singapore jet fuel/kerosene assessment at the Asian close on May 29, up $2.40/b since the start of the month, S&P Global Platts data showed.

** The FOB Singapore jet fuel outright price also trended higher in May as airlines ramped up operations in May, which led to an uptick in demand. The FOB Singapore jet fuel/kerosene outright price averaged $28.89/b in May, up $7.64/b or 35.92% from $21.26/b in April, Platts data showed.

** Negative sentiment due to the coronavirus pandemic had capped gains in April. Japan's jet fuel exports plunged 70.3% year on year to 59,456 b/d in April, latest data from Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Friday showed.

** Weaker sentiment was also observed with the Q3/Q4 quarterly jet fuel/kerosene spread - an indication of near-term sentiment - narrowing to minus $3.29/b at the Asian close on May 29, down $1.09/b or $49.5% from the week before.

GASOIL

** The Singapore June/July gasoil timespread opened June 1 at minus 9 cents/b, narrowing in from the previous close on May 29 at minus 14 cents/b.

** The front month June Exchange of Futures for Swaps spread was pegged at plus $10.50/mt at 0300 GMT June 1, down from plus $12.31/mt at the previous close on May 29.

** The lack of replacement barrels from the main supply centers in North Asia was expected to continue lending support to the Asian gasoil market. Refinery run cuts and the seasonal Q2 turnaround schedule have worked to pull back production volumes, with the tighter supply helping to shore up Asian gasoil prices. But traders are expecting supply to rebalance to some extent when the turnaround period comes to an end. "I expect gasoil supply to return to the market following the end of the turnaround season, but whether in a big way or slow way, I am not sure," a trader said.

** Market participants are also keeping a close watch on gasoil exports from China, with May and June export volumes seen significantly lower at 750,000-800,000 mt and 500,000 mt, respectively. "The question is more on July," a market participant said.

** Gasoil cash differentials have firmed for cargoes loading from Singapore and the Persian Gulf, but gasoil cracks remain weak due to persistently high gasoil inventories. The physical gasoil crack to front-month cash Dubai stood at $4.03/b at the Asian close May 29, down $1.46/b from the day before.