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Americas bunker markets reassess August outlook amid pressure

Houston — North American bunkers markets opened this week under renewed pressure from upstream energy sectors, leading some market participants to reassess expectations for the rest of August, sources said Monday.

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Markets from the US East to West coasts were again down Monday, as was pricing along the Gulf Coast. This comes after North American ports saw spot levels dip to multiyear lows during the first week of August, with signs of a rebound seen late last week wiped out Monday.

Monday's declines left the ex-wharf spot price for IFO 380 in Houston at $295/mt -- its lowest point in nearly two years, dating to a close of $293.50/mt on August 30, 2017, Platts data shows.

Likewise, spot IFO 380 levels in Los Angeles fell Monday to $357.50/mt on a delivered basis, a low not seen since October 24, 2017, when the marker closed at $356.50/mt, Platts data shows.

"I believe the fundamentals just aren't there to support the higher prices from earlier this summer," a source said Monday afternoon, noting plentiful fuel oil supply in in current conditions. "I think Wednesday [crude production and inventory] stats may help give some direction, but I don't foresee a big bull run."

Pressure from weaker energy sectors has been the primary driver for some of the early declines in the first few August sessions, sources said. Rebounds by US crude and HSFO seen late last week proved to be short-lived, and those incremental gains have done little to push up prices due, in part, to oversupply of IFO 380 in the region, sources added.

To that end, the USGC HSFO waterborne assessment fell again Monday after rebounding in the final two sessions of last week, and pricing has now declined a total of $17.55/b, or 29.2%, so far in August. USGC HSFO pricing now sits at $42.49/b, its lowest point since July 10, 2017, when the marker settled at $42.35/b, according to Platts data.

On the West Coast, Los Angeles IFO pricing declined to $357.50/mt delivered Monday, the lowest since October 24, 2017, when it was assessed at $356.50/mt. Altogether, Los Angeles IFO has shed $101 since the July 31 assessment, when it stood at $458.50/mt, falling in seven of eight assessment processes.

Some sources alluded to falls in Brent and fuel oil when talking about the declines in North American marine fuel markets.

As of Monday's close, front-month ICE Brent had risen to $58.59/b, up $2.35, or 4.2%, since its August low point last week. Also, US Atlantic Coast 3%-S fuel oil dropped to its lowest level since August 17, 2017, assessed at $45.24/b Monday.

Other sources were hesitant to point only to the decrease in crude pricing.

"I think the market was overinflated to begin with, so we are probably seeing some normalization going on," a source said.

Another market source noted global changes, mentioning increased fuel oil flows into Singapore, lower seasonal Saudi Arabian fuel oil consumption and the "cliff" of IMO 2020 looming in the background.

-- Felix Clevenger, felix.clevenger@spglobal.com

-- Phillipe Craig, phillipe.craig@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Bill Montgomery, newsdesk@spglobal.com