Interest for prompt spot cargoes still keen; demand could roll over to April.
Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices rebounded this week as persistently cold weather in North Asia forced buyers to enter the spot market to replenish inventory.
Spot prices for March <LSG-AS> delivery in Asia climbed 40 cents to $10.60 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) this week, according to several LNG traders in Asia.
Cargoes for delivery in the first half of March are trading between $10.70 and $11 per mmBtu while cargoes for the second half of the month are trading at just above $10 a barrel, they said.
Angola LNG sold a cargo for February at close to $11 per mmBtu to a Chinese company, traders said. The company has offered a March cargo as well.
"People were waiting for prices to come down, so inventory has been drawn down, but due to the cold weather they have no choice but to enter the spot market at these prices," a Singapore-based LNG trader said.
Japanese utilities, Chinese and South Korean companies are either buying or enquiring for March cargoes, he added.
He expected some of the demand to roll over to April, narrowing the backwardation between March and April. Backwardation is a price structure where prices for cargoes loading in the prompt are higher than those loading later.
Cargoes for April delivery could trade at about $8 to $9 per mmBtu, he said.
China's imports of LNG in January rose to another record high of 5.14 million tonnes, Thomson Reuters
Eikon shiptracking data showed ahead of official customs data due later this month.
The strong appetite is expected to continue this year as China has announced a more ambitious plan of switching heating systems in 4 million households and industrial plants from coal to gas or electricity this year, traders said.
India's Reliance may have bought a cargo for March delivery into Hazira terminal while Gail India is seeking its second cargo for March.
Supply issues continue to plague the market with lower volumes of spot cargoes expected from Indonesia, traders said.
Gas deliveries from Indonesia's offshore Mahakam oil and gas block to Bontang LNG plant only met 87 percent of its target as of Jan. 31, the country's regulator said this week.
While Pertamina, the parent company of the operator of the LNG plant, has said LNG deliveries to its customers will not be disrupted, spot cargoes will likely not be available, traders said.
The plant exports about 1-2 cargoes every two months, one of them said.
Further possible delays to Australia
's giant Ichthys LNG project could also see supply being tight, traders added.
Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan