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Asia light ends - Key market indicators this week

Singapore — The Asian light ends market fell in mid-morning trade on June 29, as a surge in coronavirus cases in the US dimmed the outlook for gasoline and naphtha, with weaker demand forecast to affect Asian markets.

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Saudi Aramco is expected to announce its July Contract Price for LPG this week at steady to lower levels from June, industry sources said.

The light ends markers were also dragged lower by losses in crude. August ICE Brent crude futures fell $1.32/b from the Asian close on June 26 to stand at $40.21/b at 0300 GMT June 29.

GASOLINE

** The July FOB Singapore 92 RON gasoline swap opened June 29 at around $41.05/b, 6.01% lower than the previous trade session as a surge in coronavirus cases and delays in the easing of lockdown restrictions in the US pressured the US RBOB/Brent crack spread lower.

** The US RBOB/Brent crack fell to the lowest since June 2 at $6.91/b at 0230GMT June 29, and this will likely pressure the Asian gasoline crack lower.

** Market participants this week will look towards China for hints of increasing spot supply in the near term, as improving export prices shift state-run exporters' attention away from the domestic market. A surge in exports will add downside pressure on Asian gasoline, as regional demand remains in the midst of a gradual recovery.

** Taiwan's state-owned CPC Corporation is scheduled to begin the restart of its 200,000 b/d CDU and 70,000 b/d RDS unit at its 200,000 b/d Taoyuan refinery this week, following a near three-month turnaround.

NAPHTHA

** The CFR Japan naphtha physical benchmark opened June 29 at $361.375/mt, down $17.75/mt from the Asian close on June 26, on lower crude values.

** The front month July/August Mean of Platts Japan naphtha swap spread rose $1.50/mt day on day to $7.75/mt on June 26, however, the backwardation narrowed in mid-morning trade June 29, with broker indications at $7.50/mt.

** Tight supply persisted as recent chartering activity to send western naphtha into Asia was thin, with only 240,000 mt slated to load from Europe over the first decade of July so far, industry sources said. In comparison, the first decade of June had at least 525,000 mt of naphtha loaded for the East-bound arbitrage, cFlow, Platts trade-flow software showed.

** Since trading activity for the H1 August delivery cycle in Asia began, cash differentials for CFR Japan spot naphtha parcels doubled to plus $18/mt on June 26, up from just $8.50/mt on June 16, Platts data showed.

** Asian steam crackers have begun using more LPG, with cargoes reportedly purchased for July and August delivery, due to the widening LPG discount to naphtha, market sources said.

LPG

** Front month July CP propane swap was notionally indicated at $345/mt June 29, down from $348/mt on June 26. CP July/August propane swaps notionally widened to a backwardation of $19/mt, compared with a $16/mt backwardation on June 26.

** Saudi Aramco is due to announce its July Contract Price on June 30. Traders expect Aramco to set the July propane CP around $340-$350/mt, unchanged to $10/mt lower than the June CP, and the July butane CP at $20-$25/mt below propane.

** With abundant Western cargoes heading to Asia for July, coupled with healthy supply from most Middle Eastern producers, traders expect the July propane CP will not be higher than June.

** Market participants expect Middle East butane to remain in discount to propane, but narrowing in the week ahead as mixed cargo demand recovers on a possible resumption of buying activity from India. Japanese steam crackers could also buy more butane feedstock for August to leverage on the current steep $22/mt discount to propane.

** Eyes are on whether propane's discount to naphtha will shrink after the past week's volatility, as South Korean steam crackers have partially switched feedstock from naphtha to propane, lending support to CFR North Asia propane values relative to naphtha. The propane FEI spread to naphtha for July was at minus $41.75/mt at the Asian close June 26, widening from $35/mt the day before.