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Watch: Market Movers Asia, July 20-24: Cheaper crudes, freight recovery in focus

The highlights on S&P Global Platts Market Movers in Asia this week, with analyst Yi-Jeng Huang:

* Asian refiners eye cheaper European crude oil
* Clean freight market eyes recovery from 20-year lows
* Vale and BHP to release production and export figures for the April to June quarter

Also in this episode: traders anticipate update in China's thermal coal import policy, refinery outages could give Southeast Asian methanol prices a boost, and LNG markets watch for US cargo cancellations.

Related event: Platts China Webinar Series

China's leap in the dark: Navigating an uncharted energy territory

Join us for the final episode of the China Series for a vibrant discussion with CNPC, UNIPEC & S&P Global Platts on China's energy economy, policy and trade patterns against the backdrop of COVID-19. Register here.

View Full Transcript

Market Movers Asia, July 20-24: Cheaper crudes, freight recovery in focus

This week: easing coronavirus-related restrictions could support commodities and shipping demand recovery, LNG markets watch for cargo cancellations, coal market participants await updates on China's import policy.

Asian refiners eye cheaper European crudes

But to kick things off, crude oil traders in the region will be closely monitoring South Korean and Chinese refiners' spot cargo purchases from the North Sea and Arctic Russia.

Narrow Brent-Dubai spreads make low sulfur European grades more attractive versus Persian Gulf crudes.

South Korean majors are especially interested in North Sea Forties and Russian arctic condensates, while ChemChina recently received Arctic Russian Novy Port crude, for the first time.

Now, more refineries are expected to ramp up their output after seasonal maintenance, and product demand is also expected to increase as coronavirus related lockdowns ease.

Clean freight market eyes recovery from 20-year low

This could mean a modest recovery for key clean tanker freight rates, which have been reeling at their lowest in about 20 years. Market participants said freight rates are close to bottoming out, and they are expecting a slight improvement from the current lows.

Meanwhile, in the dry bulk markets, Capesize freight rates have likely bottomed out last week. Owners pulled back on their offers and expect better demand this week, with more participation expected from all major iron miners in the spot market.

Iron ore majors' output, export data in focus

Speaking of iron ore, Vale and BHP's production and export numbers for April and June are expected to be released this week. Vale's output will be especially scrutinized as its operations were temporarily sidelined due to rising coronavirus cases in Brazil. Data from cFlow, Platts' trade flow software, indicates that Vale has increased its shipments for Q3, but are likely to fall short of its targets this year.

So for our social media question this week: Do you think iron ore supply recovery has gathered pace? Share your thoughts on Twitter with hashtag PlattsMM.

China's coal import policy in focus

Now, adding potential support to dry bulk rates, market participants are anticipating a near-term relaxation of China's thermal coal import policy. With domestic China coal supply a bit short and hydroelectric generation expected to be weak, further coal imports may be in the cards to meet strong power demand expected in July and August.

Outages may boost SE Asia methanol price

Moving on to petrochemicals, Southeast Asia's methanol prices are expected to be bullish this week, due to two major unexpected production outages. Malaysia's Petronas and Brunei Methanol Company, which have a combined total output of over 2 million mt/year, are expected to resume production only in early August. With hardly any spot cargo from the Middle East, and reverse trade flow shipments from China an expensive proposition -- participants expect prices to rise this week.

LNG markets watch for US cargo cancellations

And in LNG, the market could be looking at the possibility of yet another round cancellations for US LNG, October loading. Over the last few months as many as 40 cargoes from the US have been canceled per month. But with the upcoming winter and an increased interest in floating storage plays, demand for US LNG may be rebounding – reducing the expected cancellation volume that will be known this week.

Finally, please check out Platts Live. Platts Live is a virtual alternative to our face-to-face events and forums, featuring content on the coronavirus outbreak. It has been created to allow our customers to continue to engage with us, and each other.

You can access it at:

Do join us for the final episode of the Platts China Webinar Series for a discussion with CNPC and UNIPEC on China's energy economy, policy and trade patterns against the backdrop of COVID-19. Register online today!

Thank you for joining us this Monday, and have a great week ahead.