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!
The beauty of the U.S. NGL market is that it’s full of statistics, in fact, America does statistics very well, just take a look at American sports and you’ll see why. With so many numbers to digest in the NGL world, it tends to draw our attention to the U.S. more often than not, maybe too much. Not surprisingly it does influence what I see and think, and I’m starting to believe the U.S. has taken over as the driving force of the whole international market.
As the geo-political world enters that post incident period of claim and counter claim, the markets are trying to gauge what this means for numbers, the direction is clearly up. But there seems to be discomfort or even distress, trying to work out how far prices could move up, and how long this will all last, not just until we get to know the true extent of the damage, but also how long it’s going to take to repair.
I struggle sometimes when it comes to the Indian LPG market, especially explaining its true impact on the international seaborne trade. I think it mainly comes from spending far too long away from the LPG industry, just as India was starting to thrive, and then coming back to trading models geared predominantly to U.S. exports and FEI pricing, neither with any focus on India.
Labor Day is pretty much over, and there are maybe 6-7 weeks left of what my American colleagues call the injection season for U.S. propane inventory. It could well be a very crucial period for the U.S. propane market, and for that matter the whole international market structure. I’m trying to gauge whether we are really going to see U.S. structure continue to gain ground on its co-markets especially in Asia, but Europe as well.
August is probably the worst time for markets to get the jitters, the players are away, and any move ends up being exaggerated beyond every normal expectation. We’re all a bit worried at the moment about “demand”, the world macro-economic type, and the lack of LPG buyers in Asia, Europe, pretty much everywhere. The uneasiness is made worse for all of us in the LPG world, as the two are very much related, whether we like it or not.
The LPG market always seems to find some way of contradicting itself, and guess what, it looks as if it’s taking that course right now, maybe it’s not such an ideal time, just as we start to think of the transition from summer into winter. Let’s see if we can make sense of all that’s happening in my next two blogs, but I can’t promise!