China tariffs on US oil to pressure exports, Gulf Coast prices: traders
HOUSTON, Aug 24: China's threat on Friday to slap a 5per cent tariff on US oil imports could further soften demand for physical crude at hubs along the US Gulf Coast, where exporters already have taken to shipping crude overseas without firm buyers, traders said.
PADD 3 inventories last week rose to the highest in a month, at 225.1 million barrels, and were 12.4 million barrels higher than the same week last year, US government data showed. Supplies have climbed as two new pipelines carrying US shale from the Permian Basin opened last week, pushing key coastal grades to the lowest in a year.
On Friday, China proposed clamping a 5per cent tariff on $75 billion in US goods including oil for the first time in response to President Donald Trump's plan to impose 10per cent tariffs on Chinese-made consumer goods on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15.
The tariff on oil imports would likely "shut off flows from the US to China," leaving exporters to market a rising tide of shale oil to South Korea and Japan, said John Coleman, an oil analyst at consultants Wood Mackenzie.
US crude exports to China already had stalled in the last year, amid rising US-China trade tensions. China's imports of US crude fell to just 3per cent of total US crude exports this year, from 22per cent in the nine months ended June 2018, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
Widely exported Mars Sour crude traded as low as a $1.05 premium this week to the US benchmark, before inching back. Light Louisiana Sweet also was bid around $2.50, near its lowest in a year. Prices will have to fall sharply for shippers to profitably move US crude to foreign buyers, traders said.
"They have further to fall," one US crude trader said. "The arb has to widen for US oil to find markets."
West Texas Intermediate crude at Magellan East Houston, also called MEH, traded as low as $2 per barrel over US crude earlier this week, the weakest since last August. It was quoted at $2.45 over WTI on Friday.
"Everyone's relief valve is Asia for these excess barrels," one US trader said. -Reuters