24 March 2011 07:44 [Source: ICIS news]
By Felicia Loo
SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia naphtha prices are expected to edge higher in the coming weeks, mainly driven by prices of global crude futures, increased gasoline blending requirements and the closure of the Europe to Asia arbitrage window, traders said on Thursday.
Asia naphtha prices fell to $993/tonne (€705/tonne) CFR (cost & freight) Japan on Wednesday’s close from $1,017/tonne CFR Japan on 10 March, according to ICIS data, and this effectively eliminated arbitrage opportunities to bring in deep-sea supplies, traders said.
But several factors are expected to put a lid on price gains, including the shutdowns of some naphtha crackers in Japan following the 11 March earthquake and seasonal peak cracker turnarounds in the region, they added.
The outlook on the market remains murky at best, most traders said.
“The FOB (free on board) premiums are high, while the arbitrage window [between Europe and Asia] remains shut,” one trader said.
Some 300,000 tonnes of arbitrage material was booked for Asia for arrival in April, traders said.
“Not many people have long positions,” said another trader, adding there was some buying to make up for the shortfall.
The naphtha crack spread versus Brent crude futures widened to $123.60/tonne from $110.03/tonne last week, helped by increased gasoline blending demand as Japan, the world’s third-biggest energy user, scrambled for fuel to plug a domestic shortfall, traders said.
“In that sense, naphtha is seen [to be] strong,” one trader said.
India’s Reliance Industries sold by tender 75,000 tonnes of naphtha for loading from Sikka on 9-15 April at a higher premium of $25-27/tonne to Middle East quotes FOB. It was up from a premium of $22/tonne fetched in a previous tender for a late March-loading stem.
Elsewhere, South Korea’s Honam Petrochemical has bought by tender 50,000 tonnes of naphtha for delivery into Daesan in the second half of April at a premium of $9.00-9.50/tonne to Japan quotes CFR. Prices slid from its previous tender, for which Honam paid $11.50/tonne to Japan quotes CFR for 50,000 tonnes heading into Yeosu and Daesan.
“The picture is not clear,” said one trader.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Cosmo Oil has bought 53,000 kilolitres, or 334,000 barrels of gasoline, and 80,000 kilolitres, or 503,000 barrels of jet-kerosene for delivery into Sakai in Osaka, between end-March and early April.
JX Nippon is also on track to restart its 460,000 tonne/year naphtha cracker in Kawasaki as expected on 27 March after it was taken off line following the 11 March earthquake, a company official said this week.
($1 = €0.71)
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