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(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, acolumnist for Reuters.)
By Clyde Russell
LAUNCESTON, Australia, March 29 (Reuters) - The price ofspot liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia has moved higher amidthe blockage of the Suez Canal, but it's doubtful it needs to asthe delays to shipping to the region will likely only have amarginal impact on supply.
The spot LNG price <LNG-AS> rose to $6.80 per millionBritish thermal units (mmBtu) in the week ended March 26, upfrom $6.50 the prior week and the highest in a month.
LNG futures in New York did even better, ending at$6.93 per mmBtu on March 26, up 7.9% from the last price a weekearlier.
In some ways it's not surprising that spot LNG prices haveshifted higher, as the unexpected blockage of a major shippingtransit point introduces a level of uncertainty and volatilityto the market.
Efforts to free the Ever Given container ship, stuck in thecanal since last Tuesday, were still successful as of lateSunday Egyptian time.
But an analysis of how LNG usually flows around the globeshows that only small volumes move to Asia through the SuezCanal.
Rather, the main LNG flow through the canal is from majorGulf exporter Qatar to purchasers in Europe, meaning that delaysand re-routing of vessels around the longer Cape of Good Hoperoute will largely impact supplies to Europe.
The United States has in recent years emerged as thethird-biggest supplier of LNG to global markets, and has madeinroads into the top-consuming region of Asia from exportterminals along its east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.
However, no U.S. cargo currently sailing is heading for theSuez Canal, although as many as five laden ships appear to havebeen diverted to avoid the blockage, according tovessel-tracking data compiled by Refinitiv.
A total of 16 vessels carrying U.S. LNG are currently enroute to Asia, the majority having used the Panama Canal toaccess faster sailing times to north Asia, home to the world'sthree-biggest LNG buyers, Japan, China and North Korea.
Cargoes from the U.S. that use the Suez Canal are usuallyheaded to India, and there are currently three vesselssignalling destinations in India. All three appeared headed toround the bottom of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope.
While this will impact delivery times for those threecargoes, and potentially cut the profit for the cargo ownersgiven the additional sailing time, the volumes involved are toosmall to have much impact on prices in Asia.
What may make more of a difference is the likelihood ofincreased cargoes being made available by Qatar to buyers inAsia.
If Qatar is unable to ship through the Suez, it may preferto sell cargoes to Asian buyers, rather than wear the additionalcosts and time associated with sending vessels around the Capeof Good Hope.