GLOBAL LNG-Prompt Asian prices hit 4-month low, drop below $5/mmBtu

* Malaysia’s Petronas buys cargo following fire in gas pipeline

* China-U.S. sign Phase 1 trade deal, which includes LNG

* Several “sell” tenders offered in market this week

SINGAPORE, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) for the current month fell below $5 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), to their lowest in four months, as buyers remained on the sidelines ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.

Several cargoes were also offered in the spot market by various suppliers which helped absorb plant issues in Malaysia.

The average LNG price for March delivery into northeast Asia LNG-AS is estimated to be about $4.60 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), down 15 cents from the previous week, and the lowest since September last year, several industry sources said.

Prices for cargoes delivered in February are estimated to be $5.25 per mmBtu, down five cents, they added.

Exports from Malaysia’s Bintulu plant operated by Petronas may have been affected following a fire on the Sabah-Sarawak Gas gas pipeline in East Malaysia, industry sources said.

Petronas has bought a cargo in the spot market, they said, though details were not immediately available. Exports from Malaysia are also set to dip slightly this week compared with last week, shiptracking data from Refinitiv Eikon showed.

The signing of an initial deal between China and the United States this week also provided some positive sentiments for LNG though traders and analysts do not expect a big surge in Chinese imports over the next two years.

“The trade deal may encourage more swapping of U.S. cargoes, but until the tariffs are in place, I don’t think there will be a big increase,” a Singapore-based trader said.

There was also more demand from India as lower spot prices prompted some opportunistic buying and as cold weather in some parts of India prompted more demand for gas, traders said.

Indian Oil Corp sought six cargoes for delivery during April-December, following a flurry of Indian tenders for spot cargo requirements last week.

A South Korean buyer also bought a cargo for about $4.70 per mmBtu, an industry source said, adding that the cargo is to be delivered in March.

Still, supply was firm with several “sell” tenders this week.

Australia’s Ichthys LNG plant offered a cargo for loading by mid-January, while Brunei LNG offered two cargoes for March-loading, an industry source said.

Nigeria LNG sold a cargo for loading in late-January, though details could not be immediately confirmed.

Exxon Mobil Corp’s Papua New Guinea export plant offered a cargo for loading in mid-February, while Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) offered a cargo for loading at its Das Island plant in February, industry sources said. (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)