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Market Movers Asia Sep 20-24: First round of China's crude oil auction; LNG importers brace for high prices

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Indian state refiners ponder joint crude purchases as surging prices bite

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Watch: Market Movers Asia Sep 20-24: First round of China's crude oil auction; LNG importers brace for high prices

On this week's Platts Market Movers Asia Editor Rituparna Nath: All eyes on the first round of China's auction of crude oil from its state reserves (00:15). Observers said the result could provide insights into China's refining economics.

More highlights in Asia's commodity markets:

*Malaysia plans to open up its borders to foreign workers to address labor shortage at oil palm estates (01:41)

*Spot LNG prices surge amid terminal outages in the US and high European gas prices (02:22)

*Tight supply drives up Indonesian thermal coal prices (03:21)

37th Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference (APPEC 2021) | September 27-29, 2021

APPEC 2021 is Platts Asia's first hybrid event, featuring more than 100 speakers from over 20 countries, with a single platform for global delegates and exclusive sessions with top decision makers. Tune in as we shape and map the future of energy as an APPEC community.

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This week: Malaysia plans to open up its borders for foreign workers to manage labor shortage in oil palm estates, Gastech convenes amid surge in spot LNG prices, thermal coal prices scale new highs.

But first, China's National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration will release 7.38 million barrels of crude oil from its state reserves in the first set of auctions it plans to conduct later this week. The auction is open to local oil companies and refiners only.

Around 1.1 million barrels of light sweet Forties crude and 2.95 million barrels of light sour Murban crude are up for grabs in the first auction which will be held Sept. 24. The other grades available are medium sour crudes, including Upper Zakum, Oman Blend and Qatar Marine.

Refinery feedstock managers and trading sources in Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Thailand said the higher-than-expected share of light end crudes to be released in China could lead to less competition for Murban, Forties and light sweet West African crude oil in the coming trading cycles.

Market participants will keep an eye on the spread between winning bids for light sour Murban crude and medium sour Upper Zakum. The result could provide insights into how Chinese refiners generally see value in light end crude grades relative to more heavier crudes, and into Chinese refining economics in general.

So for our social media question this week: Do you think China's crude oil imports will be lower in the fourth quarter? Share your thoughts on twitter with the hashtag #PlattsMM.

In agriculture, Malaysia, the world's second-largest palm oil exporter after Indonesia, is planning to open its doors again to foreign workers. Malaysia relies heavily on foreign workers from Bangladesh, India and Indonesia to work in oil palm plantations. Palm oil estates are currently in their peak production season and the move is expected to boost manpower to harvest oil palm fruits.

On the markets side, palm oil trade is expected remain slower this week, second largest buyer China's Dalian exchange and paper markets are closed Monday and Tuesday owing to its mid-autumn festival. Analysts expect buying to restart in the last week of September.

In LNG, the natural gas industry will convene in Dubai for the Gastech 2021 conference, at a time when spot LNG prices have entered uncharted territory. Asian LNG importers are bracing for high fuel prices even before winter trade has kicked in.

The spot market is current experiencing its second-highest price surge on record, with the S&P Global Platts JKM for November delivery assessed at just over 25 dollars per MMBtu on Sept. 17.

The price surge is partly due to LNG terminal outages in the US after recent weather disturbances, and high European gas prices. S&P Global Platts Analytics expects spot prices in Asia to remain well supported this winter amid a tighter global market. It will likely take mild temperatures and normalization of European storage stocks to bring back significant downward pressure on prices.

And finally, Indonesian thermal coal prices are expected to rise due to tight supply and strong demand from China. Producers are left with very few offers for spot cargoes while downstream demand is high. Australian coal prices are also expected to remain bullish buoyed by demand from the East Asian market.

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