Asian spot LNG prices jumped this week, buoyed by hopes Korea Gas Corp's new tender would match past buying sprees and by emerging demand from China and Japan.
Spot prices for June delivery rose to $5.70 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), a 20 cent jump over last week, but traders cited sharply divergent views on pricing, saying the disagreements contributed to market inertia.
Still, Korea Gas Corp's Thursday tender for June and July supply - set to close on April 26 - immediately stirred up bullish offers, rescuing an otherwise muted trading week.
The last time Kogas entered the market to buy two cargoes in December 2016, it ended up awarding up to 11.
That was only one of a number of factors contributing to LNG snapping a 15-week losing streak, with Japan's Tohoku Electric seeking a May/June cargo alongside trading giant JERA's limited spot needs, Portugal's EDP seeking a June/July cargo, plus demand from Spain, India
But a resumption in production at two Australian LNG export plants -- Chevron (CVX)
's Gorgon and Woodside's North West Shelf -- left the rationale for a price rebound less clear.
Demand, even in top-tier buyer Japan, is lacklustre and weather forecasts do not support a dramatic shift any time soon. Nigeria and Russia, meanwhile, have both approached the market with new supply.
"The market in Asia is basically anywhere between $5.50-$5.80, its pretty wide and nobody exactly knows ... there's a lot of inertia," one trading source said.
So far jitters over Egypt's nascent programme of cargo deferments -- a potentially bearish signal for global markets -- have taken a back seat to more immediate developments, such as Kogas purchases, but Egypt could come to dominate thinking once the scale of its programme becomes clear.
Surging production from new gas fields is squeezing out demand for costly foreign imports, leading Egypt to consider deferring as many as 25 shipments this year and many more in 2018, according to various sources.
Yet only a small portion of deferrals have actually been agreed with Egypt's LNG suppliers so far. Most of these are trading houses but some are state-backed energy companies.
Furthermore, one trader said some sellers had hoarded supply for May in anticipation of supply disruptions that never came.
"We will see how sellers react in June, given they lost value in May," the trader said, implying potential for supply releases.
In the Atlantic, demand continued to emerge from utilities in Spain, driven by low hydroelectric reserves, faltering renewables output and nuclear issues.
Spanish bids for LNG ranged from flat to UK gas hub prices to a 10 cent premium in some cases, several sources said.
(By Oleg Vukmanovic; Aditional reporting by Mark Tay in Singaopre; Editing by David Goodman)