Asia and the United States are experiencing historic prices for jet fuel, yet their current circumstances couldn’t be more opposite. In Asia, jet fuel has plummeted over the past two months to its biggest discount on record for this time of the year. At the exact same time, the United States Atlantic Coast is being hit by the highest jet fuel prices in the region in more than a year.
The cash differentials for jet fuel cargoes in Singapore, a major port for Asian trade, hit a discount of $1.34 a barrel as compared to benchmark quotes earlier this week. This means that prices for January are at their putting them at their weakest since at least 1998, when Refinitiv Eikon started collecting this type of data. The jet fuel cash differentials recorded in Singapore have more than quadrupled over the last two months, also hitting their lowest level since August 2015 on a daily outright basis.
In Asia, the drop in jet fuel prices is in large part thanks to a supply surge and a relatively warm winter, which is keeping demand for kerosene (an important component of jet fuel) lower than in past years. Temperatures in some of the region’s most populated cities, including Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai, are expected to remain unseasonably warm for the next few weeks. Even in colder North Asia, where kerosene is generally widely used to heat homes during these months, there have been no prolonged cold snaps so far this year.
The price of East-Asian jet fuel could pick up in the next few months if the cold weather finally comes in or with the significant spike in demand that’s expected to come with the major travel surge around Lunar New Year. The holiday will land on Feb. 5-6 this year.
"It'll be important how fast the aviation traveling demand can pick up as we're having another round of festive season coming up in the Chinese New Year next month, which may give some support," one trader told the Economic Times.
In India, state oil companies also cut the price of aviation turbine fuel by nearly 15 percent, the second consecutive drop in Indian jet fuel prices. In fact, the drop in aviation turbine fuel prices in India is so significant that jet fuel is now cheaper than both gasoline and diesel in most parts of the country.
Jet fuel rates are revised on the first of every month by state-owned fuel companies based on the average international oil rate as well as the previous month’s Rupee-US Dollar exchange rate. This latest price cut is the most significant drop since November 2008 and has been met with great celebration by the local airlines, who were struggling to make a profit with higher fuel prices and a depreciated rupee. Jet fuel makes up approximately 40 percent of the expenses for Indian airlines according to reporting by Business Standard. Even though the Indian aviation industry is growing rapidly, it’s remained cash-strapped. Airfares in the Indian market are 10-15 percent lower than break-even levels for airlines according to Boeing’s Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Dinesh Keskar.
Meanwhile, in the eastern United States, jet fuel differentials have risen to their highest levels in 16 months in the face of a stock slump across the region. United States Atlantic Coast (USAC) jet fuel inventories have plummeted 656,000 barrels to a total supply of just 8.29 million barrels according to numbers from the most recent US Energy Information Administration data. This makes the region’s overall jet fuel reserve more than a million barrels less than during the same time period last year. “I'm having trouble finding sellers," one USAC distillates broker told S&P Global.