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An oversupplied global gas market has come under even more pressure in the last week as prices in Northeast Asia declined on growing uncertainty about how the coronavirus outbreak in China might impact demand there.
While just two U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes have departed for China since early last year given the trade rift between the two countries, weakening sentiment there is weighing on global prices that were already trading at unprecedented lows for this time of year.
Northeast Asia is basically driving the global market as Europe is flooded with gas at a time when demand is lower on warm weather, said ClipperData’s Kaleem Asghar, director of LNG analytics. The Japan Korea Marker, Northeast Asia’s LNG benchmark, hit a new record low on Monday when it passed a $4.00/MMBtu floor and hit $3.512.
Fears about the absence of demand in China, the world’s second largest LNG importer behind Japan, are “hammering prices,” Asghar said. And while industrial demand is seen facing the greatest threat there, it remains difficult to gauge the outbreak’s full impact on gas consumption as Lunar New Year celebrations -- typically a time of reduced usage -- have been extended in some parts of the country because of the virus.