Asian spot LNG prices fall for third straight week to near 2-yr low

(Reuters) - Asian spot LNG prices fell for the third straight week on Friday to the lowest level in nearly two years due to weak demand from top regional importers and as inventories remained high.

The average LNG price for June delivery into northeast Asia, which has fallen nearly two-thirds this year, slumped to $10.50 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), industry sources estimated, a 4.5% fall from the previous week and the lowest level since end-May 2021.

The average price for July delivery was estimated at $10.67/mmBtu.

"Price pressure continues to favor the downside. Plenty of cargo availability in Europe with Chinese national oil companies offering volumes, while at the same time, looking to pick up molecules in the east given favorable nominal prices," said Tobias Davis, head of LNG Asia at brokerage Tullett Prebon.

High inventory levels at South Korean and Japanese utilities continue to cap demand, despite forecasts of high temperatures in the coming weeks. As of April 23, major Japanese power utilities held 2.56 million tons of LNG in storage, versus 1.96 million tons in late April 2022, and the five-year average of 1.95 million tons in late April 2023, according to consultancy Rystad Energy.

"Tokyo and Seoul have each been forecast to see a brief spell of high temperatures in the coming couple of weeks, but this has not spurred any significant LNG purchasing, while southern China broadly appears set to keep seeing below-average temperatures until the second half of May," said Samuel Good, head of LNG pricing at commodity pricing agency Argus.

In Europe, S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed its daily Northwest Europe (NWE) LNG Marker price benchmark for cargoes delivered in June on an ex-ship (DES) basis at $9.739/mmBtu on May 11, a discount of $1.375/mmBtu to the June gas price at the TTF Dutch gas hub, said Allen Reed, managing editor, Atlantic LNG.

"The past week has been the first stretch of sub $10/mmBtu prices since June 2021. The market has been weak due to tepid buying in both the Atlantic and Asia-Pacific basins. This has combined with mild European weather and strong European gas storage levels," Reed said.

"However, there was some renewed buying interest in Europe this week that has narrowed the discount of the LNG market to the natural gas market," he said, which brought the Northwest Europe spread between natural gas and LNG to their narrowest point since mid-March.

On LNG freight, Pacific spot rates softened this week, falling to $45,500 per day on Friday, its lowest levels since the summer of 2022, said Edward Armitage, an analyst at Spark Commodities.

Atlantic rates fell to $40,000 per day on Friday.

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