Asia spot LNG holds at 6-week top amid sustained demand

(Reuters) - Asian spot LNG was unchanged this week, keeping at a six-week high over $9 per MMBtu for a third consecutive week, as demand from buyers continued shoring up prices.

The average LNG price for May delivery into northeast Asia LNG-AS held at $9.50/mmBtu, the same as the previous week, which was its highest level since February 9, industry sources estimated.

Demand was sustained due to colder-than-normal weather driving some gas demand in northeast Asia, said Ryhana Rasidi, gas and LNG analyst at data and analytics firm Kpler.

She added that Chinese players are likely waiting for further price declines to encourage more LNG buying and that the recent earthquake in Taiwan has had little impact on prices as no nuclear infrastructure was affected.

A spokesperson from Taiwan's state-owned energy company CPC told Reuters that its two LNG import terminals had not been affected by the earthquake and are operating normally, while imports remain on schedule.

In India and South Korea, high terminal stocks have been capping interest from buyers, but lower inventories in Japan have underpinned some demand, said Samuel Good, head of LNG pricing at commodity pricing agency Argus.

In Europe, S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed its daily North West Europe LNG Marker (NWM) price benchmark for cargoes delivered in May on an ex-ship (DES) basis at $8.14/mmBtu on April 4, a $0.20/mmBtu discount to the May gas price at the Dutch TTF hub.

Argus assessed the May delivery price at $8.10/mmBtu, while Spark Commodities assessed the April delivery price at $8.047/mmBtu.

"European gas prices have been under pressure as the temperatures are rising and we have reached the end of the winter season," said Hans Van Cleef, chief energy economist at PZ - Energy.

"With inventories well filled, and healthy LNG flows towards Europe expected, prices of the active month contracts have dropped."

However, the emergence of Egypt's natural gas company EGAS for LNG deliveries to Jordan, and expectations that the country's demand could reach some 20 cargoes, has raised the prospects of competition for European buyers for summer cargoes to be loaded from Atlantic terminals, added Good from Argus.

Meanwhile, on spot LNG freight, both the Atlantic and Pacific rates both fell for a second consecutive week, said Spark Commodities analyst Qasim Afghan.

The Atlantic spot rate fell to $44,750/day on Friday, while the Pacific spot rate eased to $47,000/day.

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