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US Gulf Coast spot bunkers prices end October at multiweek lows

Platts Dirty Tankerwire

US Gulf Coast spot bunkers prices end October at multiweek lows

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Wide ranges heard in Houston for retail 0.5%S

Motivated sellers look to keep barges moving: sources

New York — Spot retail bunkers pricing for US Gulf Coast markets continued to tumble Oct. 30, ending the month at their lowest points in weeks amid sustained pressure from retreating crude and diesel futures, while demand fundamentals also continued to weigh.

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The most pronounced volatility in October was seen in retail 0.5%S marine fuel segments, with recent feedback pointing to weak demand and suppliers closing deals at lower levels for small volumes while recouping value via elevated $/mt barging rates.

Houston spot retail 0.5%S pricing came off $1 to be assessed Oct. 30 at $267/mt ex-wharf, its lowest point since closing at $262/mt ex-wharf on June 15, according to S&P Global Platts data.

The New Orleans marker fell in line with Houston to price at $282/mt ex-wharf, its lowest point since closing at $272/mt ex-wharf on June 15.

Weak demand fundamentals have pressured both retail 0.5%S markets in recent weeks, with sources regularly talking prices in a wide range and pointing to motivated sellers setting the floor.

Additionally, sources have said recently that greater discounts were being given for smaller volumes, with suppliers balancing lost value on fuel with lump-sum barging costs that come out to a higher per-mt freight add-on.

This approach has been viewed as necessary by some markets sources, who add that suppliers with time-chartered barges are economically incentivized to keep them running in the face of weak demand and increased competition.

Marine gasoil spot pricing in both ports also closed the month on a skid, falling $1 day on day to be assessed at $337/mt ex-wharf Houston and $347/mt ex-wharf New Orleans.

The Houston spot price was last assessed this low on Oct. 2 with a close of $330/mt ex-wharf, while New Orleans last dipped to this level the same day via a close of $336/mt ex-wharf.

Spot IFO 380 pricing in Houston shed $1 day on day to be assessed at $238/mt ex-wharf, while the New Orleans assessment moved in lockstep to remain at a $15/mt premium at $253/mt ex-wharf.

Both markers took direction from a weaker wholesale USGC high-sulfur fuel oil market, which came off 25 cents/b ($1.59/mt) over the same period.

USGC retail IFO 380 spot prices closed the month at their lowest point in four weeks dating to Oct. 2, when Houston was assessed at $227/mt ex-wharf and New Orleans closed at $247/mt ex-wharf, Platts data shows.