Brazilian iron ore exports remain stable
Data from the trade ministry show that Brazilian iron ore exports remained steady in August, up marginally by 0.2 Mt on July to 27.5 Mt. However, August’s figure is still 5.0 Mt lower than the record volume of 32.5 Mt in August 2011. In the first eight months of this year, Brazil exported a total of 201.4 Mt of iron ore, compared with 207.2 Mt in the corresponding period in 2011.
Aruba refinery to be converted to product storage terminal
Valero will convert its shuttered 235 kb/d Aruba refinery in the Caribbean to a product storage terminal by the end of this year, Reuters reports. Operations at the plant were halted in March this year in the face of weak margins. Valero will continue to seek a buyer for the facility. Reports of a $350m bid from PetroChina for the site emerged in May, but no deal has been reached as of yet.
Newcastle coal exports at 3-month low
Coal exports from the Carrington and Kooragang terminals at Newcastle slipped 1.7 Mt month-on-month to 8.3 Mt in August, the lowest monthly level since May, according to Port Waratah Coal Services. This was 0.5 Mt lower than the year-ago level. Total shipments in the Jan-Aug period of 69.3 Mt were 5.5 Mt higher than the corresponding period in 2011.
China’s PMI at 9-month low
Official data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed a contraction in manufacturing activity in August. China’s Purchasing Managers Index fell for a fourth consecutive month to 49.2 in August, representing the first drop below 50-mark since November 2011.
Chinese steel price still under pressure
The price of wire rod in China declined again, falling by $27/t from the beginning of August to $530/t, according to World Steel Dynamics. This marked the lowest level since mid-December 2009.
Russia’s Seaborne Crude Exports To Rise In September
Russia’s seaborne crude exports are expected to rise 34 kb/d on the month in September to 2.95 mb/d, with volumes from the Baltic set to increase 181 kb/d to 1.93 mb/d, reports EnergyIntel. Shipments from Novorossiysk are set to drop 157 kb/d to 700 kb/d due to poor margins while no cargoes have been allocated to the Tuapse outlet as Rosneft keeps the volumes for the increased capacity at its Tuapse refinery. Volumes of Siberian Light currently exceed Tuapse’s expanded capacity but the current pipeline network to Tuapse is not sufficient to feed both the refinery and exports. Siberian Light exports will be reduced and instead be run at the domestic refinery while the line is expanded. Volumes from Ust-Luga are due to rise 63 kb/d to 426 kb/d after shipments failed to reach the 2Mt per month allocation in July and August due to market conditions.
Rising demand, refinery delays set to force Brazil’s Petrobras to boost product imports
The head of refining at Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company, expects the country’s imports of diesel to reach as high as 300 kb/d in 2014, up from around 150 kb/d now, and imports of gasoline to rise from 75 kb/d to 90 kb/d over the same period, Reuters reports. Lengthy delays to refinery projects are ensuring domestic output of transport fuels is not keeping up with rising demand. New refineries at Abreu e Lima and Comperj have suffered multi-year delays, and are not expected online until 2014 and 2015 respectively. When processing starts at these plants, Petrobras expects diesel import requirements to fall back to 100 kb/d. Further rises to product import demand from Brazil and other burgeoning Latin American economies will likely increase employment for MRs out of the USG, exports from which have surged in recent times. Strong export demand is supporting USG product prices, however, limiting transatlantic diesel arbitrage opportunities and potentially partially offsetting this extra MR demand.
Indian iron ore exports set to decline
India exported 11.9 Mt of iron ore in the first quarter (April-June) of the current financial year (April 2012/March 2013), down 45% year-on-year, according to the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries. The Federation is now estimating Indian iron ore exports to total 45 Mt during the current financial year, down by 72 Mt or 62% from the record volume of 117 Mt in 2010/11 and 17 Mt or 27% lower than the previous financial year’s 62 Mt.
US GDP in the 2q12 revised up
The US economy grew at an annual rate of 1.7% in the 2q12, up from its initial estimate of 1.5%, according to the Commerce Department. However, it is still lower than the 2% growth in the 1q12.
US crude inventories rise as imports surge
After four consecutive weeks of declines that saw US commercial crude inventories drop by 19.4 MB, stocks rose last week by 3.8 MB to 364.5 MB after crude imports surged. Imports of 9.50 mb/d were 1.29 mb/d higher from a week earlier. Nonetheless, 4-week average imports were 4.8% lower yoy, reflecting the depressed levels prior to last week. Following hurricane disruption this week to USG crude oil production and imports via the LOOP terminal, but less severe interruptions to refinery operations, stocks may well be shown to have declined once more during this week. Crude runs at US refineries averaged 15.38 mb/d last week, down slightly from the 14.44 mb/d processed a week earlier. This and lower imports saw gasoline stocks drop by 1.5 MB to 201.2 MB. Distillate inventories rose by 0.9 MB to 126.1 MB, but remained 16.6% lower than the five-year average.
World HRB export prices at 31-month low
The world hot rolled bank export prices slipped by $4/t from two weeks ago to $579/t, according to World Steel Dynamics’ SteelBenchmarker. This marked the lowest level since January 2010 and $131/t lower than the year-ago level.
The HRB price in China has extended its slump, falling by a further $17/t in the last two weeks to its lowest level since December 2009, at $462/t. However, the HRB price in the US saw a modest gain of $14/t over the same period, standing at a 15-week high of $727/t.
Storm Isaac shuts down refineries
Tropical Storm Isaac is currently bearing down on the US Gulf of Mexico and has caused the closure of some US Gulf refineries and the evacuation of offshore oil rigs. The storm is expected to make landfall late Tuesday into early Wednesday over Louisiana - where a high concentration of US Gulf refineries are located - just south of New Orleans. The National Hurricane Center is projecting that the storm could strengthen into a Category 2 Hurricane. News reports suggest that operations have so far been halted or reduced at refineries with a combined capacity of 2.35 mb/d. The last report from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on 27 August said personnel had been evacuated from 346 rigs in the US Gulf of Mexico and that 1.08M b/d of oil, accounting for 78% of US Gulf production, has been shut in. Energy Intelligence noted that if a refinery does shutdown, it could take up to 10-14 days to restart. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port shut operations and suspended the offloading of tankers at 9am CDT on 27 August, Platts reported. Any prolonged outage of Atlantic basin refinery production could see more longer haul product shipments as imbalances in regional supply would need to be addressed, potentially boosting voyages for the MRs and possibly drawing more refined barrels from Asia to head west, that would support LRs. Rates for Aframaxes and Panamaxes in the Caribbean could be boosted by the inevitable delays in being able to discharge cargoes and any repositioning of ships due to Isaac.
China’s daily crude steel production
China's daily crude steel output in the 10-days period of 11-20 August is estimated at 1.930 Mt, compared with 1.970 Mt in first ten days of the month and 1.947 Mt a year ago, according to the China Iron and Steel Association. This represents the lowest daily output since late March.
Indian crude runs rise 3.6% yoy in July
Indian crude runs averaged 3.54 mb/d in July, a 125 kb/d increase yoy, according to the latest government data. July’s increase represents the third consecutive month of year on year growth. Government data does not include inputs at Reliance’s second, 580 kb/d, export-based refinery at Jamnagar. Indian oil demand was seen rising by 9.4% yoy last month, according to Reuters.
China’s wire rod price lowest since 2009
The price of China’s wire rod declined $20/t week-on-week to $535/t, representing the lowest level since mid-December 2009, according to data from the World Steel Dynamics. This compares with $615/t only seven weeks ago.
Chinese Bauxite Imports Still Weak
Tighter regulations and higher export taxes on unprocessed ores from Indonesia - imposed in May - continued to severely restrict imports of bauxite into China in July, customs data show. Just 1.4 Mt of bauxite were imported in July following 1.0 Mt in June, which contrasts sharply with the record 6.3 Mt in May. Furthermore, whereas Indonesia accounted for 5.6 Mt of the May volume, more than 80% of July’s imports originated in Australia.
Chinese imports of nickel ore have maintained a steady pace since the new regulations in Indonesia, with July’s imports of 6.0 Mt not far short of the 6.5 Mt moved in May. However, this owes much to an increase in shipments from the Philippines, which grew from 2.4 Mt in May to 4.5 Mt in July, while imports from Indonesia dropped.
US steel imports at year-to-date low
According to data from the US Census Bureau, the country’s steel imports fell for a third consecutive month to a year-to-date low of 2.3 Mt, down 8% month-on-month. July’s total was virtually the same as the year-ago level. Total imports in the first seven months of this year of 18.3 Mt were 2.6 Mt higher than the corresponding period last year.
Japanese raw materials imports
Japan imported 10.1 Mt of iron ore in July, with a decline of 1.2 Mt month-on-month, representing the lowest level since February, according to the Ministry of Finance. However, January-July imports still recorded a 3% year-on-year increase.
By contrast, Japanese coal imports rose 2.6 Mt on June to a 6-month high of 16.8 Mt in July. Total imports in the first seven months of this year totalled 105.6 Mt, up by 5 Mt year-on-year.
EIA weekly data: crude inventories fall again; remain well-above five-year average
US crude inventories fell by 5.4 MB last week, the fourth consecutive weekly decline, according to the latest EIA data. At 360.7 MB, however, stocks remained 6.3% higher than the five-year average. Crude imports of 8.21 mb/d were 510 kb/d lower than during the previous week, and took the four-week average to a level 6.5% lower yoy. Although crude runs at US refineries fell by 273 kb/d to 15.44 mb/d as a result of various refinery outages, most notably on the West Coast, utilisation rates remained strong at 91.18% of total capacity. Last week saw domestic gasoline consumption fall by 227 kb/d to 9.08 mb/d. With domestic production largely meeting demand, imports of gasoline remain lacklustre. Receipts of 777 kb/d last week took 13-week average imports to a level 8.8% lower yoy. This is something of an improvement, however, from a yoy decline to the 13-week average in early June of over 35%. Weak gasoline import demand has weighed heavily on transatlantic MR demand of late, although the recent improvement has helped lift TC2 earnings over the last fortnight.
China’s Iron Ore Imports By Source
July’s customs data show a significant decline in Chinese iron ore imports from India, with a fall of 47% from June to 2.5 Mt. This brings the year-to-date total to just 30.3 Mt, a massive 44% below the January-July 2011 total.
Meanwhile, China imported 12.7 Mt of Brazilian iron ore in July, up 2.5 Mt on June, however, shipments from Australia declined by 2.4 Mt to 25.3 Mt. Gains were also recorded from South Africa (+1.4 Mt to a ytd high of 4.1 Mt), Peru (+1.0 Mt to a record 1.4 Mt), Canada (+0.6 Mt to a 4-month high of 1.2 Mt) and Chile (+0.4 Mt to 1.3 Mt).
Chevron USWC CDU Fire Boosts Demand for Alternative Feedstock
The 6 August fire at Chevron’s 225 kb/d California that has shut its CDU for up to six months is boosting USWC demand for alternative feedstock as the firm looks to boost output from still-operational secondary units at the site, Argus reports. Vacuum gasoil (VGO) cargoes from India and Europe are being diverted from the USG, whilst Chevron is reportedly requesting extra VGO volumes from European sellers on top of existing transatlantic flows. Extra flows to the USWC could add to dirty Panamax tanker crude demand, with the longer voyage times tying up vessels for extended time periods, further adding to tonne-mile demand.
July Global Steel Production
Latest data from the World Steel Association indicated that world crude steel output in July registered gains of 1.7% on the previous month and 2.0% on July last year to reach 129.7 Mt.
Chinese steel mills produced a monthly all-time high of 61.7 Mt (+4.2% year-on-year), while significant year-on-year gains were also in evidence in India (+5.4% to 6.6 Mt), the FSU (+2.6% to 9.5 Mt) and South Korea (+4.4% to 5.9 Mt). This helped offset disappointing data from the EU-27, where output fell 4.9% annually to a five-month low of 14.2 Mt, and weak growth in the US (+0.9% to 7.4 Mt).
Eastbound shipments of West African crude to drop in September
Loadings of West African crude bound for the Asia-Pacific are set to average 1.63 mb/d in September, a 60 kb/d decline from this month, according to Argus calculations. Slowing Chinese oil demand growth, reduced arbitrage opportunities and reduced supply all contributed to the drop. The Brent/Dubai spread averaged $2.96/bbl in July compared with just $0.75/bbl in June, making September –loading cargoes less attractive to refiners east of Suez. September will see the volume of Angolan crude available for export hit a fifteen-month low of 1.57 mb/d, according to loading programmes cited by Reuters, although subsequent reports suggest that the country’s loadings may actually be slightly higher next month.
China’s coal imports
Chinese coal imports in July (including lignite) retreated from June’s record level to 24.3 Mt in July, according to data from China’s customs statistics. However, July’s figure was still 3.0 Mt higher than the year-ago level. Total imports in the first seven months of this year reached 164.3 Mt, up by a massive of 58.6 Mt or 55% from the corresponding period last year.
China’s steel price stabilizes
After falling by 18% since the beginning of this year to $554/t in late July, the price of China’s wire rod has stabilised, with the current price at $555/t, according to data from the World Steel Dynamics.