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Watch: Market Movers Europe, Feb 11-15: Unexpected strength in fuel oil market

In this week's Market Movers: Vale's Brazilian woes take their toll on Europe's steel market; and a strong start is expected for an "appetizing" new price assessment in petrochemicals.

But first, oil market participants will hold their breath this week as unseasonable strength in the European fuel oil market continues to surpass market expectations; while the region's gasoline market is likely to continue to struggle in the coming week, with arbitrage windows to both the US and West Africa staying firmly closed.

This week's social media question is: Will current dynamics in the refined products market persist? Tweet us your thoughts with the hashtag #PlattsMM.

In metals, all eyes this week will be on European steel product prices. As a result of a dam collapse at one of Vale's iron ore mines in Brazil last month, several steelmakers have hiked prices, despite widespread expectations of a slowdown in European steel market growth rates this year.

Meanwhile, a plentiful supply of Russian coal, high European stockpiles and mild weather are contributing to a drop in prices amid weak Asian demand.

Also in generating fuels: US officials are expected to encourage German officials to support building LNG import infrastructure at a meeting in Berlin this week.

And finally, S&P Global Platts launched a new assessment last week for polyethylene terephthalate. Otherwise known as PET, the plastic is used to make items such as bottles and food packaging.

Join our conversations on Twitter - use #PlattsMM and connect with us.

View Full Transcript

In this week's Market Movers: Vale's Brazilian woes take their toll on Europe's steel market; and a strong start is expected for an "appetizing" new price assessment in petrochemicals.

But first, oil market participants will hold their breath this week as unseasonable strength in the European fuel oil market continues to surpass market expectations.

The dirty product's strength has come amid demand from Singapore and Saudi Arabia, due to profitable arbitrage windows.

The front-month 3.5% sulfur Rotterdam barge crack spread - which measures the relative price of the product compared with crude oil - hit an all-time high last week. Meanwhile, fuel oil's discount compared with more valuable gasoline narrowed to a fresh low.

The European gasoline market is likely to continue to struggle in the coming week, with arbitrage windows to both the US and West Africa staying firmly closed.Platts' key ethanol FOB Rotterdam benchmark looks set to continue

That leads us to this week's social media question: Will current dynamics in the refined products market persist? Tweet us your thoughts, as always, with the hashtag #PlattsMM.

In metals, all eyes this week will be on European steel product prices.

On January 25, a dam collapsed at one of Vale's iron ore mines in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Vale is the world's largest iron ore producer, and the price of basic 62% iron ore has jumped by close to 30% since the accident.

As a result, steelmakers ArcelorMittal, Arvedi and British Steel have hiked prices by as much as 30 euros per metric ton for some of their products since early February. That's despite widespread expectations of a slowdown in European steel market growth rates this year.

Market sentiment has been aggravated by a suggestion that Vale may have to prioritize Brazilian mills' need for pellets and other products at the expense of export customers in Europe and elsewhere.

From iron ore to coal - and a plentiful supply of Russian coal, high European stockpiles and mild weather are contributing to a drop in prices amid weak Asian demand.

There has been a drop in delivered European thermal coal prices in the last three weeks, as you can see from the purple line on our chart.

From over $85 per metric ton in mid-January, the price for thermal coal delivered to Northwest Europe fell to a little over $70 per metric ton last Friday. It previously had not dropped below $70 since early 2017.

Continued weakness over the coming week would continue to push out US coals, which are fighting for market share against high calorific value, low sulfur Russian coals.

Also in generating fuels: US officials are expected to encourage German officials to support building LNG import infrastructure at a meeting in Berlin this week.

US deputy energy secretary Dan Brouillette is set to discuss the issue with the German government on Tuesday. There are three projects vying for support from Berlin, where the government is keen to diversify gas supplies in light of the country's planned coal phase-out.

A ministry official said last week that at least one terminal will be built. The US has been a vocal supporter of German plans for LNG import infrastructure. It sees this as an alternative to Russian pipeline gas. President Donald Trump last year said Germany was "captive" to gas supplies from Moscow.

Finally, S&P Global Platts launched a new assessment last week for polyethylene terephthalate. Otherwise known as PET, the plastic is used to make items such as bottles and food packaging.

PET is likely to see particularly strong demand in Europe as companies increase efforts to include more recycled content in their plastic packaging. Buyers will be looking to lock in margins from this week, as many industry sources expect prices to rise.

You can find the new food-grade PET pellet assessments in Polymerscan and on Platts Petrochemical Alert page 506.

That's it for this week. Thanks for kicking off your Monday with us, and have a great week ahead.