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Watch: Market Movers Asia, Jan 21-25: China's GDP, oil market in focus

China's Q4 and 2018 GDP numbers are expected to give an indication of commodity demand in the world's second-largest economy. Economists expect China's growth to have slowed down in the second half of 2018, reflecting the impact of the simmering trade war between China and US, as well as slowing domestic demand.

China is also set to publish detailed commodity trade data for December this week, and will give further indication on how the trade war with the US has affected bilateral flows on commodities like oil, LNG and soybeans.

Meanwhile, Asia spot LNG prices have mostly seen a downward trend so far this year. However, there is some prompt support seen as Pacific production from Australia and Indonesia is declining.

In thermal coal, sources this week expect tightening supply for Kalimantan coal mainly due to robust demand from China, ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year in February. Vessel congestion at Indonesia loading ports and heavy rains in Kalimantan have also increased the pressure on supply.

In shipping, the Asia Pacific Panamax and Supramax rates are expected to trend lower as tonnage supply outweighs demand. In the VLCC market, with the February loading window kicking off, market sentiment is expected to recover on improving demand.

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View Full Transcript

This week: China oil market in focus, Asia spot LNG market prices reach inflection point, China thermal coal buyers' start restocking, and finally VLCC earnings on PG-North Asia are supported.

But first, China's Q4 and 2018 GDP numbers will be out today, giving an indication of commodity demand in the world's second-largest economy. Economists expect China's growth to fall to 6.6% in 2018, the weakest since 1990 due to a slowdown in H2 reflecting the simmering trade war between China and US, and slowing domestic demand. Some sources say they anticipate Beijing to set a lower economic growth target in 2019.

China is also scheduled to publish detailed commodity trade data for December this week. This will reflect the impact of the trade war with the US on bilateral flows of commodities like oil, LNG and soybeans. Trade flows of Middle East and Iranian crudes to China will also be in focus. China's oil demand growth is estimated to have dropped by 18% to 590,000 B/D in 2018. S&P Global Platts Analytics expects total oil demand growth to slow to 450,000 B/D in 2019 on increasing uncertainties.

Meanwhile, Asia spot LNG prices have mostly seen a downward trend so far this year. However, there is some prompt support seen as Pacific production from Australia and Indonesia is declining. Do you think this will support prices? Share your thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag PlattsMM.

In thermal coal, sources this week expect tightening supply for Kalimantan coal mainly due to robust demand from China, ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year in February. FOB Kalimantan 4,200 GAR prices have already risen by about 10% since the start of the year. Vessel congestion at Indonesia loading ports and heavy rains in Kalimantan have also increased the pressure on supply.

Talks to settle Newcastle 6,000 NAR thermal coal priced for Japanese term contracts for the financial year starting April 2019 are due to start in February. The market will be monitoring these talks as the Japanese April price tends to act as a benchmark for Australian thermal coal throughout Asia for many supply contracts for customers there.

And finally in shipping, the Asia Pacific Panamax and Supramax rates are expected to trend lower as tonnage supply outweighs demand. Given the higher coal stockpiles in China, market does not expect a rush of activity before the Lunar New year leaving a fairly bearish tone for the next few weeks. In the VLCC market, with the February loading window kicking off, market sentiment is expected to recover on improving demand. Earnings of owners on the PG-North Asia routes are around $30,000 /day currently, about half the level in early December. However, demand recovery and resistance by major VLCC owners will likely prevent further declines.

Thanks for kicking off your Monday with us. Have a great week ahead!