As Thanksgiving holidays approach over in the U.S., we’re experiencing this paradox of having the signs of winter in the midcontinent, stocks dropping over 6 million barrels throughout the U.S. in the last two weeks, but propane exports have just hit a season’s high, with over 1.36 million barrels moving over the docks in the U.S. Gulf, U.S. east and west coasts. Mont Belvieu propane prices have surged on the back of not only the cold weather, but also the hefty export volumes, ending up close to 56 cents/ gallon, while the market was below 40 cents/gallon only 3 months ago, that’s up 40%.
I know markets are supposedly 24/7 these days, but come on, it’s the holiday season a coming. The market is starting to show signs of easing back, getting programmes sorted and balanced, not taking on any more positions that might need late nights and early mornings sorting out potential problems, instead allowing for late nights and early mornings having fun, albeit in a more thoughtful way, and by the way, that’s not a veiled parallel to our excruciatingly misguided Prince Andrew. But as always there’s bound to be something about to happens that’s going to ruin the party!
I was kindly invited to attend the first Argus LPG Awards for Excellence ceremony, this week in London’s Science Museum. I have to say it was a great success, and was lovely to see such a broad representation of our business, and some worthy winners as well. “You know who” picked up the best trader award, yes I do mean Seb Willems at Glencore, and he’d already got his winner’s speech prepared, that’s why he is #1, it’s all in the preparation! Mary-Jane Hogg deservedly won the executive of the year, and there were awards for Ineos, GE Power and Noreen Howat at Aggreko.
At a recent gathering of the good and the mighty in Athens, I understand a distinguished ship owner was able to hold a relatively straight face when explaining the challenges, or something along those lines, faced by the VLGC ship owners in the current mesmerizingly strong LPG shipping market. I’m sure every investor who boarded the run early, maybe even after reading my summer and autumn SIMON SAYS blogs, is sitting extremely comfortably today as he checks his share portfolio. But what happens next, is there going to be a twist, there usually is!
I still believe that if you have any serious intentions to be a player in the LPG world, you need a ship, whether you own it or charter it doesn’t really matter, all that counts is that you have one. Now a lot of people will remind me that the market has been on its knees many times over the last ten years or so, and for many periods before that, and isn’t this just me trying to ride the wave of the current strength in the freight market.
It’s looking as if it’s been another one of those weeks in the LPG world, where defining a forward view of the market could go one of many ways, and the backcloth is an ARB market that initially headed south but has now regained some broader momentum. In today’s SIMON SAYs I’ll take a look at what the key indicators are up to, and what has happened to them over the last couple of weeks, to see if there’s a clearer direction going forward, as cargoes are starting to be talked for the January 2020 arrival period in Asia.
On Friday I decided to try and explain what lays behind the EIA’s weekly inventory numbers, the numbers they know, and the ones they don’t. Although there is a degree of uncertainty regarding production, at least there was a number we could decipher, as there also was for imports and exports, but that’s about where it all stopped. I mentioned we had to make a lot of assumptions, the biggest one being U.S. domestic propane demand. Are we getting it right or wrong?
Over the last few weeks I’ve run a couple of blogs, as part of RBN Energy’s hallowed daily energy post, covering how the ARB works, how it relates to a physical cargo loading out of the U.S., and destined for Asia, and at nearly the same time as today’s SIMON SAYS hits the newsstands, a third blog will be posted that explains such glorified terms as the Argus FEI, the “Ginga” window and the standardized “Ginga” contract. Rusty and a few of the guys in Houston, and beyond, have then translated what I have said into good ole American lingo, and a fine job they’ve done too!
However much we like to try to put crude oil and natural gas prices in the back of our minds, mainly because none of us really know enough about them, they are still the catalyst for what happens next in the LPG space. Today I explore what’s probably going on in the heads of those oil and natgas players, as they assess what’s going to happen next, and what will be the driving forces. Whether it tells us any more than we already know, or directs us in a certain path on LPG, well we have to wait till I get to the end.
I bet some of you are saying that all I seem to talk about these days is that damn ARB, from Houston to Chiba, but to soothe any sore feelings I’m going to explain a little more about the direction of seaborne trade. Not just the route from the U.S. to Asia, however important it might be. We’ve all seen the world maps with those directional arrows, and in a nutshell that’s pretty much what it is all about. Whatever anybody says you can’t beat a good world map!