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Asian Product Market - March 2017

Source: OPEC 4/12/2017, Location: Middle East

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The Asian market got support from expectations of a more balanced market in the lead up to the onset of the regional maintenance season. This occurred amid stronger middle distillates demand fuelling bullish sentiment, while refinery margins managed to remain healthy during February despite the weakening seen at the top of the barrel.

The Asian gasoline market weakened slightly during February as high inventories in the US fuelled bearish sentiment to the Asian market. In addition, some pressure came from the supply side with an increase seen in Northeast Asia exports (mainly Taiwan and China), which along with the higher supplies coming from the new capacity online in India has been exerting pressure on the gasoline market.

The gasoline crack spread against Oman crude in Singapore averaged around $12.40/b in February, losing 40¢ compared with the previous month’s level. Further losses were avoided by strong demand being reported from Vietnam, which offset the slower demand reported in Indonesia amid expectations of a tightening market during the onset of the maintenance season.

Singapore naphtha partially kept the recovery seen in the previous month, supported by stronger demand in the ethylene petrochemical sector and the start of a steam cracker unit in India. However, any additional uptick was capped by news about Taiwanese cracker units planning their maintenance program and additional volumes expected from the Middle East.

At the middle of the barrel, the gasoil crack spread retained the ground gained in the previous month and showed a slight strengthening supported by a more balanced market amid expectations of tightening with the onset of the maintenance season in the region. Supply pressure has been easing as high diesel exports from China have been reduced due to the seasonal inventory build and Indian gasoil production has dropped, thus offsetting the reduced East to West arbitrage.

Another supporting factor was the stronger demand being reported from South Asia, with Sri Lanka boosting its gasoil requirements for power generation due to a severe drought.

The gasoil crack spread in Singapore against Oman averaged around $12.20/b in February, gaining slightly by 30 compared with the previous month’s level.

The Asian fuel oil market continued weakening during February due to pressure coming from the supply side with increasing inflows over the region (mainly from the Middle East) amid expectations of higher arbitrage volumes in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, regional demand for power generation and heating has started to slow.

Another bearish factor has been the stock build seen in Singapore, which increased more than 20% during February, due to bunker fuel demand in Singapore, which was impacted by the New Year’s holidays.

The fuel oil crack spread in Singapore against Oman averaged about minus $5.50/b in February, losing more than $2 from the previous month. Further losses were avoided by stronger demand reported from Pakistan and Vietnam.

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