Asia Fuel Oil-Month-end activity eases, volatile arbitrage outlook looms

Spot market activity cooled on the last trading day of January, while a volatile outlook for arbitrage supplies loomed as markets prepared to enter February, trade sources said.

Bids and offers for spot cargoes were largely thin on Wednesday as the market braces for a new trading month.

The cash premium for 0.5% very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) cargo was pegged lower at $7.91 a metric ton, while high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) premiums were little changed.

Refining margins posted a monthly jump in January on the back of firmer bunkering demand. VLSFO cracks LFO05SGDUBCMc1 closed at a premium of about $15 a barrel, climbing by more than 20% from the start of the month, LSEG data showed.

The outlook for arbitrage supplies remained volatile amid continued Red Sea tensions as freight costs and fuel prices in the west surged, making west-to-east arbitrage economics less favourable, trade sources said.

However, existing inventory levels are still high in the east so this has capped a lid on further price strength, sources added.

BUNKER UPDATES

– TFG Marine has added its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering vessel to its fleet, the company said. The 5,000 deadweight-ton vessel, the MT Diligence, will join the company’s low sulphur fuel oil and biofuel supply operations at Singapore.

– NYK Line has installed a test engine facility in Japan’s Chiba to evaluate the safety of biofuels for marine bunkering. The test engine will be a reused generator from ammonia-fueled tugboat Sakigake.

OTHER NEWS

– Oil prices fell on Wednesday as lacklustre economic activity in China weighed on sentiment, but prices were set for their first monthly gain since September as broadening Middle East conflicts raised supply concerns.

– Saudi Arabia’s government on Tuesday ordered state oil company Aramco to halt its oil expansion plan and to target a maximum sustained production capacity of 12 million barrels per day, 1 million bpd below a target announced in 2020.

– Japan’s reliance on crude oil supplied from the Middle East has increased by 1 percentage point to 95.1% last year, data released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed on Wednesday.

– Clean energy stocks might be in for a much-needed recharge this year as bets on interest rate cuts brighten their outlook following record outflows from this former ESG hot spot.

WINDOW TRADES

– 180-cst HSFO: No trade
– 380-cst HSFO: No trade
– 0.5% VLSFO: One trade
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Jeslyn Lerh; Editing by Varun H K)

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