Despite the ups and downs of crude oil prices, base oil values have generally dropped in Asia on bearish sentiment and a downbeat outlook.
Crude oil futures continued to register sharp swings throughout the week, but buyers were not convinced that the intermittent spikes in crude oil values could shore up base oil pricing.
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Analysts were also of the opinion that crude values would not be able to sustain an upward momentum and would tumble on a global supply glut and reduced demand.
Given negative economic indicators in key Asian markets such as China, and the turmoil in global stock trading, there was a generalized perception among base oil participants that requirements from downstream applications would be rather temperate over the next few months.
As a result, buyers were hesitant to secure large cargoes on concerns that inventories would not be consumed as expected, and that they would be left with high stocks of expensive material.
Even the high-viscosity grades, which had generally been steady to firm in recent months, were unable to dodge the downtrend, and suppliers acquiesced to the pressure by decreasing offers in hopes of stimulating sales.
Export indications for cuts such as API Group I solvent neutral 500 edged down by United States dollar $20 per metric ton week on week for September shipments.
Likewise, and also within the Group I category, bright stock – which had bucked most price fluctuations due to ongoing tight supply – has not been able to withstand the downward pressure and prices have plummeted. It was heard that spot offers for September cargoes were hovering close to $1,000/t FOB Asia, reflecting a hefty $100/t drop from numbers assessed a week ago. While there were higher selling indications mentioned as well, sources said that these numbers met little interest as buyer’s ideas were below the $1,000/t mark.
Within the Group II segment, bids and offers for export spot transactions have also been lowered on weakening fundamentals, with spot indications for 150N and 500N seeing decreases between $10/t and $20/t.
There have also been downward adjustments on ex-tank Singapore indications for the Group II cuts, with the 150N grades inching down $10/t to $20/t to levels around $620/t-$640/t ex-tank.
Prices for the 500N cut also softened along with the other base oils, with numbers slipping by $10/t, although sources said that this grade remained fairly tight and the number of offers was therefore limited.
There were also price changes noted in Taiwan, where producer Formosa Petrochemical Corp. reduced domestic prices of one of its Group II cuts, but increased the price of another.
Formosa is understood to have lowered the price of its Group II 150N cut by a U.S.D. equivalent to approximately $60/t on plentiful availability and lackluster demand.
The producer was also heard to have increased the price of its Group II 500N oil, but the adjustment actually yields a decrease when calculated in U.S.D. due to the recent currency fluctuations of the Taiwan New dollar, according to sources.
As discussed above, a majority of base oils have seen downward adjustments over the week in Asia, spurred by lackluster demand and plentiful availability of most grades, coupled with downbeat market sentiment. This week’s assessments have been revised as a result.
On an ex-tank Singapore basis, Group I SN150 prices were assessed at $620/t-$640/t, and SN500 was hovering at $770/t-$800/t, reflecting decreases of $10/t-$20/t. Bright stock was adjusted down by $50/t to $1,070/t-$1,090/t.
On an FOB Asia basis, Group I SN150 was revised down by $20/t at $510/t-$530/t. SN500 also edged down by $20/t to $670/t-$690/t FOB, and bright stock was trimmed by $100/t at $980/t-$1,010/t FOB.
Within the Group II category, prices for 150N were adjusted down by $20/t to $520/t-$550/t FOB Asia. Prices for 500N were assessed at $720/t-$740/t FOB Asia, reflecting a $10/t drop.
The Group III assessments were adjusted down in line with current indications. The 4 centiStoke and 6 cSt oils were gauged at $870/t-$890/t FOB Asia, while the 8 cSt grade was heard at $640/t-$660/t FOB Asia.
Talk in the shipping arena centered on base oil cargoes from South Korea moving to several destinations in Asia. A 2,900-metric ton lot of three base oil grades was being discussed for Yeosu or Ulsan to Chennai, India, for Sep. 20-28 lifting. A second cargo of 1,750 tons base oil from Yeosu or Ulsan to Mumbai, India, was also quoted for the same dates and could be combined with the cargo to Chennai. A 2,880-ton lot of four grades was on the table for Yeosu to Merak, Indonesia, for Sep. 20-29 shipment. A 500-ton parcel was quoted for Yeosu to Singapore, also for Sep. 20-29 lifting. A 1,500-ton cargo was expected to cover Yeosu to Port Klang, Malaysia, forSep. 25-30 shipment.
Additionally, a cargo made up of 2,000 tons plus 500 tons was quoted for Hong Kong to Nantong, China, for Sep. 6-10 shipment, and a 3,000-ton lot was still on the table for Rayong, Thailand, to Chittagong, Bangladesh, for Sep. 10-20 lifting.
October ICE Brent Singapore futures traded at $50.04 per barrel in afternoon trading on Sep. 3, compared to $48.75 per barrel for futures on Aug. 31.
Gabriela Wheeler can be reached directly atgabriela@LubesnGreases.com.