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China’s April MTBE imports shoot up on profitable arbitrage

Futures Daily News ( Alice Zhao )China imported 98,700 mt of MTBE in the month, dramatically higher from 238.08 mt in March, data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC) showed.

MTBE prices averaged $226/mt in the Singapore market in April, which translated into an import cost of CNY2,295/mt for China. But the average in South China stood at CNY3,330/mt, indicating a profit of around CNY1,035/mt from the difference in prices for Chinese importers, JLC data shows.

Asia gasoline prices plunged due to lockdown measures taken by to fight COVID-19, leaving profits for blending gasoline with MTBE negative. Nevertheless, China still showed strong appetite for foreign MTBE shipments, which was fueled by the profitable arbitrage. As a result, many shipments flowed into China in April to May.

Qatar was the top MTBE supplier to China in April, exporting 45,700 mt, followed by Malaysia with 19,800 mt and Singapore with 14,800 mt, GAC data showed.

China exported 12,600 mt of MTBE in April, a plunge of 64.39% from month-ago level, GAC data showed.

Supply was tight in the month, when the operating rates of MTBE units across the country stayed low at 30%-40% of the total operable capacity, with several large units remaining shut.

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