* S. Korean inventories more than 90 percent full
* Qatargas restarts trains 5, 6 and 7 after maintenance
* European market dull, Dec imports 26 pct down on 2010
* Shipping rates reach $140,000/day, eye $200,000 in 2012
By Oleg Vukmanovic and Rebekah Kebede
LONDON, Dec 16 Asian LNG prices slipped
below $17 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) as mild
winter weather in Asia and well-stocked inventories kept buyers
out of the market.
South Korea's inventories are still at over 90 percent of
storage capacity of 3.8 million tonnes, though down from 95
percent of capacity in November.
Kansai Electric Power Co, Japan's second-biggest
utility, said it needs to buy slightly less fossil fuel in
October-March than it projected a month ago, as it maximised
LNG industry is still eyeing developments with Japan's
nuclear reactors to gauge demand for next year.
Kansai Electric said Friday the No.2 reactor at its Ohi
nuclear plant had entered planned maintenance, bringing the
number of reactors online in Japan to seven, or 13.9 percent of
the nation's nuclear power capacity.
The world's biggest LNG producer Qatar this week said it had
resumed production from Qatargas trains 5, 6 and 7 following
maintenance, adding more supply to global markets.
Europe's market for spot LNG trade showed few signs of life
as plentiful pipeline supplies, sagging demand and declining
prices across major hubs discouraged interest.
Key western European ports in Britain, Belgium, France and
Spain continued to receive long-term shipments from Qatar, which
was enough to meet demand despite a year-on-year drop in
Europe is set to import 4.8 million metric tonnes of LNG
this month. That's 26 percent less than in the same period last
year, according to data from Waterborne.
Daily rental rates on LNG tankers are between $135,000 and
$140,000 after the latest round of fixtures and record demand
The Excelsior tanker was leased on Wednesday at that level,
one broker said, who added that the Exquisite which was
chartered last week fetched a similar amount.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley this week predicted
that day-rates in 2012 will reach $200,000, representing the
extreme upper range of analysts' forecasts.
(Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic; editing by Jason Neely)