Asia spot prices fall further on tepid demand, high inventory
SINGAPORE, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices slipped over the past week amid high inventory levels and as a mild weather outlook dampened demand.
The average LNG price for March delivery into northeast Asia was $17 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), down $1.50, or 8.1%, from the previous week, industry sources estimated.
The average price for April delivery is estimated at $16.50 per mmBtu.
"Prices in Asia have continued to be bearish this week amid a milder weather outlook in Northeast Asia next week and LNG stocks which remain at healthy levels for the time of year," said Ryhana Rasidi, an analyst at data and analytics firm Kpler.
"Nonetheless, we are at least still seeing Asian prices maintaining a slight premium to Europe, which is a change from the significant discounts we've seen throughout most of last year."
Asian spot LNG prices are typically at a premium to European natural gas prices, but traded at a discount for most of last year. After hitting a record high last August, they began sliding in late December and have shed nearly 40% so far this year, and are currently at the lowest levels since August 2021.
The fall in prices has encouraged some buying interest, with Thailand's PTT, Bangladesh's RPGCL and China's CNOOC seeking cargoes this week.
In top importer Japan, while cooler weather has been forecast for mid-February with below seasonal temperatures seen in Tokyo, gas inventory levels remain healthy, said Tobias Davis, head of LNG Asia at brokerage Tullett Prebon.
"Therefore, there is a distinct lack of any expectation for fresh incremental LNG import demand," he said.
In Europe, S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed its daily Northwest Europe LNG Marker (NWM) price benchmark for cargoes delivered in March on an ex-ship (DES) basis at $15.209/mmBtu on Feb. 9, a discount of $1.475/mmBtu to the March gas price at the Dutch gas TTF hub.
With reduced industrial gas demand and weather forecasts indicating above-average temperatures for February and March, Europe could be starting the injection season in April with stocks that could be similar to 2020 levels, if not a little higher, said Samuel Good, head of LNG pricing at commodity pricing agency Argus.
"This would contrast sharply with last year, when much lower end-winter stocks supported gas injection demand through the summer," he said.
German gas storage operators group INES on Thursday said there was no chance of a shortage this winter, citing lower demand and sufficient supply after inventories were filled to the brim.
Still, as Russia's piped gas volumes to Europe this year are set to be lower than 2022, Europe will "still need to pull in a lot of LNG across the summer as a whole... So competition should continue," said ICIS LNG analyst Alex Froley.
Meanwhile, LNG freight rates saw a slight decline this week, said Eleni Balomenou, analyst at Spark Commodities, with Spark's Atlantic rates at $54,500/day on Friday, and the Pacific rate at $66,250/day.
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