Uncertainty and lackluster demand continue to impact the Asian base oil market, although there was a glimmer of hope that buying activity would start to improve in December.
Sources commented that Donald Trumps victory in the U.S. presidential election added a significant element of uncertainty to market conditions, as there were concerns that the President-elects policies would impact future trade relations between countries.
A number of market sources noted that it would be a while before any changes in U.S. policy became noticeable, and others said that there may not be any significant changes at all.
The election results also caused shockwaves in international financial markets, with stocks dropping dramatically on Nov. 8 but showing a steady climb the following two days.
Meanwhile, several U.S. petrochemical groups - including the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) association - in a series of statements, pledged to work with the new administration to pursue the industrys goals.
Asian market participants were also keeping an anxious eye on crude oil developments. Sources said that base oil prices had been fairly stable over the last couple of weeks because crude oil had been trading within a narrow band.
However, if crude oil futures fell, base stock prices were likely to follow, sources said.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices tumbled as much as four percent to around $43 a barrel - a near two-month low - when the election results were announced, but edged higher the following day as stocks and the dollar bounced back.
ICE Brent Singapore January 2017 futures were trading at U.S. $46.78 per barrel on Nov. 10, compared to $46.11/bbl on Nov. 7.
Asian base oil demand continued to be characterized as weak, but in line with expectations for November.
Some suppliers expected discussions in Taiwan and China to pick up in December for cargoes to be delivered ahead of the Lunar New Year, which will be celebrated the last week of January 2017.
Even though production has been scaled back at some facilities because the market was deemed slightly oversupplied, and producers were favoring the output of transportation fuels, the availability of certain grades was exceeding requirements.
This was particularly evident in the API Group III segment because of new production having come on-stream in the Middle East earlier this year. Sources said this material was being offered into India at very competitive prices, for instance.
Also in India, several Group I base oil cargoes of U.S. origin were heard to have been fixed, one of them consisting of 8,000 metric tons of light and heavy grades and bright stock, while a second cargo was also heard to have been offered for a late November loading date.
Trading volumes in general were said to be down as uncertainties over future price direction continued to linger, and buyers were only willing to buy product for immediate use. As a result, spot prices were largely flat during the week.
On an ex-tank Singapore basis, API Group I solvent neutral 150 was hovering at $585/t-$605/t, while the SN500 was unchanged from a week ago at $665/t-$695/t. The bright stock price range was also steady at $910/t-$930/t.
The Group II 150 neutral was assessed at $585/t-$605/t, and 500N at $760/t-$780/t, ex-tank Singapore.
On an FOB Asia basis, Group I SN150 was holding at $470/t-$490/t, while the SN500 was heard at $560/t-$580/t FOB. Bright stock was unchanged at $770/t-$790/t FOB.
In the Group II category, 150N was steady at $470/t-$490/t, while 500N/600N was assessed at $630/t-$650/t, all FOB Asia.
In the Group III segment, the 4 centiStoke and 6 cSt oils were assessed at $750/t-$780/t, FOB Asia, while the 8 cSt grade was gauged at $650/t-$670/t FOB Asia, although some sporadic lower numbers were also heard.
In terms of production, it was heard that Thai producer IRPC would be taking its 326,000 metric tons per year Group I plant in Rayong off-line in February next year for a planned turnaround.
Gabriela Wheeler can be reached directly at gabriela@LubesnGreases.com.
LNG Publishing shall not be liable for commercial decisions based on the contents of this report.