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Watch: Market Movers Asia, Feb 18-22: US-China trade talks resume; refiners eye jet/kero cracking margins

The US and China resume talks in Washington but market watchers are optimistic after Last Friday's meetings in Beijing. US President Donald Trump says he may extend the March 1 deadline for the trade truce.

This week, markets will also keep an eye on Asia jet/kero cracking margins, Indonesian sanctions against local coal producers who failed to fulfil domestic mandates in 2018, and the uncertainties over Alunorte's alumina refinery output.

View Full Transcript

This week in Asia, refiners eye jet/kero cracking margins, Indonesia may face coal output cuts, and the alumina markets look to Brazil for direction.

But first, the US and China resume talks in Washington but market watchers are optimistic after Last Friday's meetings in Beijing. US President Donald Trump says he may extend the March 1 deadline for the trade truce.

In oil, refiners in the Asian oil markets are keeping a close watch on the Jet and Kerosene cracking margins. The Singapore front-month March paper regrade, which is the spread jet and kerosene commands over gasoil, plunged to a four-month low to just under a $1 per barrel last week. Japan's kerosene demand remains sluggish due to warmer-than-expected winter temperatures; meanwhile jet fuel demand is weak across all of Asia. South Korean refinery sources surveyed by Platts said that the country's jet fuel exports to the US may have peaked this month.

In China, detailed commodity trade data for January will be published on Monday. The market will be examining Middle East and Iranian crude flows to China. S&P Global Platts' trade tracker cFlow showed that Iranian imports into China for January had fallen to 241,000 barrels per day, a multi-year low. Sources say this could be because China has stopped stockpiling Iranian crude.

Moving to coal, China's high stockpiles and port restrictions have put a damper on seaborne thermal coal markets in the past two weeks. The market is however optimistic of a recovery in Chinese domestic prices now that the holidays are over.

So the social media question of the week is this: Do you think port limits will be lifted soon? Share your thoughts with us with the hashtag PlattsMM.

The Indonesian government, meanwhile, may start to penalize local producers who failed to fulfill domestic mandates last year. The authorities have not specified which company or mine is sanctioned but market players say this will impact prices in 2019.

In metals, the alumina market is looking to Brazil for direction. There are supply worries after Vale's iron ore tailings dam collapse last month. This has sparked concerns about a possible delay of government approval for the Alunorte alumina refinery to ramp up output. Alunorte is the world's largest alumina refinery but was forced to halve output since March 2018 due to environmental incidents. Until now, the refinery had seemed close to gaining clearance to return to full capacity. The run cut has removed about 242,000 metric tonnes of alumina from the market per month, creating shortfalls around the globe. Consumers in Canada, Iceland and Norway have been hit particularly hard.

And finally, in shipping - sentiment in the Asia Pacific Panamax and Supramax markets remains positive after rates moved higher through last week for the first time this year. Demand from East Asian countries returning from Lunar New Year holidays continue to support the freight rates.

And that's it from us. Thanks for kicking off your Monday with us. Have a great week!