US shale shippers to foot bill for Trump steel tariffs

US-China trade friction has led to the imposition of tariiffs on goods, with steel at the heart of the conflict. Now, rising costs are being passed on to other US industries, including fuel. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 August 2019

US shale shippers to foot bill for Trump steel tariffs

  • Pipeline operators begin to introduce fees to pay for cost of administration’s China trade war

BEIJING: Plains All American Pipeline said it will tack on a fee for users of a new oil pipeline to pay for the cost of the Trump administration’s imported steel tariffs, becoming the first US operator to do so.

In addition to steel levies announced last year, President Donald Trump said on Thursday he plans to expand US tariffs to $300 billion of Chinese imports in a trade dispute that has increased costs for US consumers on everything from steel to electronics.

Houston-based Plains will begin charging shippers a 5 cents per barrel fee on its 670,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Cactus II pipeline next April to offset higher construction costs from “governmental regulation and tariffs,” according to a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Plains last year estimated the 25 percent steel tariff would add $40 million to its costs for the $1.1 billion pipeline, which runs 550 miles (885 kilometers) from the Permian basin of West Texas and New Mexico to the US Gulf Coast.

The Trump administration last year imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum to shield US producers and jobs from overseas competition. It was one in a series of tariffs imposed by Trump since becoming president in 2017.

“This is an example of how harmful trade policies such as steel tariffs and quotas are hurting the US energy industry, economy, and potentially energy consumers,” said Natalia Sharova, a spokeswoman for the trade group American Petroleum Institute.

Two other new pipelines could also raise their prices if Plains’ surcharge sticks, three analysts said. They pointed to Kinder Morgan Inc’s Gulf Coast Express pipeline and an EPIC Midstream pipeline, which were constructed after the steel tariffs were levied.

“There’s certainly a risk of them passing on inflationary costs,” said Kendrick Rhea, an analyst at industry researcher East Daley Capital.

“This is an issue for the next go-around of pipelines,” added Matthew Blair, an analyst at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

Kinder Morgan declined to comment. EPIC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Plains Chief Executive Officer Willie Chiang last year told a congressional hearing that the tariffs on critical energy projects could have “significant unintended consequences that could undermine important progress toward realizing American energy independence, strengthening national security and improving the balance of trade.”

The US Commerce Department rejected Plains’ two initial requests for a waiver, and the company has filed a third request, said Brad Leone, a Plains spokesman. He did not say how much the surcharge would raise.

“It’s making it clear the steel sanctions are increasing costs,” Sandy Fielden, an analyst at financial services firm Morningstar, said of the company’s new fee. “The shipper’s going to have to pay, come what may.”

Plains disclosed spot tariff rates on the new pipeline from $4.75 to $5.60 per barrel, according to Friday’s regulatory filing, when the tariff went into effect.

It is one of three new pipelines entering service over the next few months and is expected to relieve a bottleneck that has weighed on regional oil prices for over a year.

Permian crude differentials rallied on market speculation that the Cactus II pipeline will begin service in August, traders said.

Pipeline operator EPIC Midstream Holding recently began filling a new 400,000 bpd crude pipeline from the Permian basin, and expects to begin making deliveries this quarter, President Brian Freed said in an interview with Reuters.


Virus fears push stocks to 2-week low

Updated 28 January 2020

Virus fears push stocks to 2-week low

  • China has confirmed more than 2,700 cases of the new virus, with 81 deaths. Most have been in the central city of Wuhan

LONDON: World shares slipped to their lowest in two weeks on Monday as worries grew about the economic impact of China’s spreading coronavirus, with demand spiking for safe haven assets such as Japanese yen and Treasury notes.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 106 and the virus spread to more than 10 countries, including France, Japan and the US. Some health experts questioned whether China can contain the epidemic.

By midday in London, MSCI’s All-Country World Index, which tracks shares across 47 countries, was down 0.6 percent to its lowest since Jan. 9.

In Europe, stock markets slumped at the start of trading, tracking their counterparts in Asia. The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 2 percent to its lowest level since Jan. 6, and the Euro Stoxx 50 volatility index jumped to its highest level since December.

“The coronavirus is an economic and financial shock. The extent of that shock still needs to be assessed, but it could provide the spark for an arguably long-overdue adjustment in the capital markets,” Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Securities, told clients.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei average slid 2 percent, the biggest one-day fall in five months. A Tokyo-listed China proxy, ChinaAMC CSI 300 index ETF, fell 2.2 percent. Many markets in Asia were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

US S&P 500 mini futures were last down 1.36 percent, suggesting an open in the red on Wall Street later. The VIX volatility index, also known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” hit its highest levels since October.

The ability of the coronavirus to spread is getting stronger and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday. More than 2,800 people globally have been infected.

China announced it will extend the week-long new year holiday by three days to Feb. 2 and schools will return from their break later than usual. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong said it would ban entry to people who have visited Hubei province in the past 14 days.

“While the continued spread of the virus is concerning, we were expecting that the outbreak could worsen before being brought under control,” UBS strategists wrote in a research note, adding that they expected impact on the region’s economy and risk assets to be short-lived.

“Sentiment may remain depressed in the near term, especially for those sectors most impacted, however we retain a positive outlook for emerging market stocks, including a preference for China equities within our Asia portfolios.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off 0.45 percent, although markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia were closed on Monday.

All three major Wall Street indexes closed sharply lower on Friday, with the S&P 500 seeing its biggest one-day percentage drop in over three months.

The S&P 500 lost 0.9 percent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.6 percent and the Nasdaq Composite 0.9 percent. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed five case of the virus on US soil.

US Treasury prices advanced, pushing down yields. The benchmark 10-year note’s yield fell to a three-and-half-month trough of 1.6030 percent. It last traded at 1.6321 percent.

Elsewhere in bonds, the Italian 10-year yield fell to a three-month low Monday after right-wing leader Matteo Salvini failed in his bid to overturn decades of leftist rule in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna on Sunday, bringing some relief to the government.

In the currency market, the Japanese yen strengthened as much as 0.5 percent to 108.73 yen per dollar, a two-and-a-half-week high.

The euro last traded unchanged to the dollar.

China’s yuan tumbled to a 2020 low, and commodity-linked currencies such as the Australian dollar fell, as growing fears about the spread of a coronavirus from China pushed investors into safe assets.

The coronavirus outbreak also pressured oil and other commodity prices.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures plummeted 2.69 percent to a three-and-a-half-month low of $52.13. Brent shed more than 3 percent to a three-month low of $58.50 per barrel.

Spot gold rose as much as 1.0% to $1,585.80 per ounce, the highest level since Jan. 8, as the coronavirus outbreak pushed up demand for the safe-haven metal.