SINGAPORE: Asian jet fuel refining margins advanced on Wednesday, though traders were concerned a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in major markets would dampen recovery for the aviation sector.
Refining margins, or cracks, for jet fuel climbed 30 cents to $4.69 per barrel over Dubai crude during Asian trading hours as raw material crude prices fell amid worries that surging virus cases in India will crimp fuel demand.
With fresh waves of coronavirus in key Asian markets, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand, the border restrictions would continue to be mostly in place, forcing the majority of international flights to remain grounded, market watchers said.
The jet fuel cracks have gained about 44% over the last one month as pockets of aviation demand emerged, but they are still more than 60% lower than their levels for this time of the year in pre-pandemic 2019.
“Increased travel restriction has derailed Eid holiday plans threatening the nascent jet fuel recovery, while new waves crashing onshore in Japan will likely lead to more state emergency requests,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at Axi.
Air cargo demand, however, is expected to support the jet fuel market in the near term, trade sources said.
Major oil trading companies are stowing diesel and jet fuel on newly built supertankers in Asia and Africa in anticipation of COVID-19 vaccinations driving prices higher in the months ahead despite the activity being less lucrative now than last year.
Trafigura, Glencore and Vitol are holding about 1.5 million tonnes of the industrial and aviation fuel on at least seven Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) off Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Africa, according to shipping sources and data from analytics firms Vortexa, Kpler and Refinitiv.
Middle-distillate inventories in the Fujairah Oil Industry Zone rose 4.7% to 3.2 million barrels in the week ended April 19, data via S&P Global Platts showed. The weekly stocks in Fujairah have averaged about 4 million barrels so far this year, compared with 4.2 million barrels in 2020, Reuters calculations showed.
US distillate fuel inventories, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 655,000 barrels in the week to April 16, according to two market sources, citing American Petroleum Institute (API) figures.