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.
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 was a little stunned to read during my morning LinkedIn flick through, that BW LPG’s CEO Martin Ackermann has decided to step down at the end of the year, after five years at the helm. I was lucky enough to share a panel discussion with Martin in Houston this year at RBN’s “Energy Xport Con”, and although I’ve only known him for a short while, I was impressed how focused, and cool he was under the spotlight of the U.S. energy, and particularly NGL players.
Although last week was shortened by the Thanksgiving holiday, a few more pieces seemed to be falling into place in the U.S., and for that matter when moving out of the U.S. as well. If we then add in a few what might or might not happen questions, it was actually an eventful last week of November. Then came the attention on the U.S. from Asia, concern may be, as well as from a small number of trading houses nestling in the major cities of Europe. But why the concern?
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%.
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.
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!
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!