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Market Movers Asia, Aug. 16-20: China refiners await crude import quotas, LNG prices soar

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Watch: Market Movers Asia, Aug. 16-20: China refiners await crude import quotas, LNG prices soar

On this week's Platts Market Movers Asia with Lead Metals Analyst Paul Bartholomew: Chinese refiners look forward to new crude import quotas.

More highlights in Asia's commodity markets:

*Tight container availability drive up polymer freight (0:33)

*COVID-19 case halts operations at Ningbo Port (00:45)

*Asian spot LNG prices hit fresh summer highs (01:15)

*Iron ore prices to average around $180/mt in Q3: Platts Analytics (02:00)

View Full Transcript

This week: Container availability concerns rise, LNG prices soar, and a wave of new coronavirus infections threatens metals prices.

But first, China's independent oil refineries are breathing a sigh of relief. They are close to securing more than 4 million metric ton of new crude import quotas, which will help them maintain their operations. China's private refining sector has had to sharply cut down on crude purchases in recent trading cycles due to tight quota availability.

In petrochemicals, Asian polymer markets are keeping a close watch on container availability and prices. Container availability is already tight, and prices have gone through the roof. There are concerns that the situation will worsen following suspension of operations at the Meidong Container Terminal at Ningbo Zhoushan port. Disruptions at the port are likely to push ships to the world's busiest container port complex in Shanghai, which could compound delays in loading polymer cargoes. Polymer freight from Far East Asia to South Asia has shot up to $200/mt, and there are concerns that it could increase even further.

Meanwhile, Asia's spot LNG prices continued their upward trend, posting new summer highs that touched $17/MMBtu last week. The Platts JKM assessment is being supported by strong European gas prices that are forcing Asian buyers to bid up LNG prices to get additional barrels from the Atlantic basin. EU gas storage is estimated to be around 55% full and market participants are concerned that stocks won't reach a suitable level ahead of winter. Platts Analytics expects JKM to remain supported at or above current levels in the weeks ahead amid a tight fundamental market.

Turning to metals, China will announce its crude steel production for July today. The Chinese government is trying to keep output down and the latest curbs on steel mills have resulted in a big drop in iron ore prices. The Platts iron ore benchmark has fallen by 25% since the start of June. Platts Metals Analytics expects iron ore prices to average around $180/mt in the third quarter. Some market participants say August, which is a seasonally slower economic time of year, is weaker than expected. The delta variant outbreak across parts of China could further dampen metals prices.

Do you expect iron ore prices to go back up to 200 dollars per metric ton this year? Share your thoughts with the hashtag PlattsMM.

For more on all the issues affecting commodity markets from wherever you are, make sure to check out Platts LIVE at the address displayed on your screen.

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