I used to get excited when the Gastech conference venue was about to be announced each year, the destinations were normally one of the big attractions for LPG players looking to get away from the dreary slog of the trading desk, Langan’s Brasserie or Cecconi’s for lunch, and Shepherd’s market for a few beers at night. You have to hand it to the pre-millennium traders for their dedication to the cause.
When last week’s market looked as if it had had enough of just heading-up in one direction only, it usually would mean heading the other way faster than you would expect, but hold on, within just a week this doesn’t now appear to be the case, and market actions are pushing in all different directions, meaning you just have to love the world of LPG! To quote an English saying, I get the feeling it’s time to make hay while the sun shines.
Most people have been back at their desks for a week already since the end of the festive holidays, and what a week it’s been. Crude oil prices, actually settled on Friday, below the levels prior to the assassination of General Soleimani, with Brent around $65/ Bbl. The week seemed to have this macabre stage management feel to it, with missiles launched at U.S.
Happy New Year to everyone in the world of LPG. And what a festive season to remember, and I’m not talking about presents, turkey and seeing in the New Year with your favourite tipple. The dislocation in the market has gained even greater momentum over the last two weeks, as the ARB has widened to over $300/ mt for the prompt month of January 2020. For propane that’s the equivalent of over 60 cents/ gallon. And yet the producer, having shifted his barrels to Mont Belvieu, is struggling to get much more than 45 cents/ gallon for his product.
We’re coming up to the Christmas festivities and the sentiment in the market is extremely robust. Although the physical commotion isn’t anywhere near resembling Oxford Street on Christmas Eve, in itself it’s maybe a hint that there aren’t that many spare cargoes loitering around in the market, especially for delivery in January 2020.
It feels as if the political baton has been passed over the Atlantic, with the announcement yesterday that the Democrats had won the vote in the House of Representatives to impeach President Trump. As we in the U.K. had to go through the embarrassment, and the peculiarities of the House of Commons rules and procedures, as one side favouring remain, representing different parties but not always their constituents, out-voted a Government aiming to put in place what they described as the vote of the people to leave the European Union.
It’s that time of year again when we all try to make predictions of what’s going to happen next year in the LPG industry, and start to think about setting a few New Year’s resolutions, some we’ll keep and others we won’t. Will it be more interesting than this year, well the LPG market always throws up surprises, and that is about all we can guarantee. Bring on the new decade!
Last night the January 2020 ARB was floating at just under $230/ Mt, the difference between the propane price in Asia and the price in Mont Belvieu. Freight has slipped to circa $115/Mt for the Houston to Chiba voyage via the Panama Canal, making up only half of the overall differential. Now I don’t think that’s been the case for a while, even when freight rates from Houston to Chiba had slipped to just above $40/ Mt a couple or so years ago. I think someone said this was “helping netbacks”, how much help do they need!
It always seems difficult to apply the right adjective to a market, strong and weak cover all magnitudes, booming, roaring, explosive, rocketing, rising, surging are all to be found in your on-line thesaurus, but I’m not sure if they are on the button when it comes to what the market showed last week. Asia appears to be moving from reasonably firm to a lot stronger, I guess I’ll have to make do with those descriptive words for now. I used to get excited with sudden jumps in any market, especially if our position just happened to be on the right side of the jump.
I think what has characterized the world I live in over the last week, as well as the LPG market itself, has been a number of surprises, and how situations we have been talking about for weeks and months, now look as if they have come true, beyond any reasonable doubt. We are waking up to a new set of parameters, that will make the next two or three months interesting, if not a lot more predictable. Here in the U.K. most of the country were surprised, in fact very surprised, to see Boris Johnson, and the Conservative Party, storm to victory by such a huge majority.