LNG investments hit record of $50bn in 2019

The world’s first LNG-powered 23,000-TEU container ship in Shanghai; the industrial sector in Asia is the biggest driver of LNG growth. (AFP)
Updated 26 September 2019

LNG investments hit record of $50bn in 2019

  • In the next five years, about one-third of global LNG demand will come from China alone

TOKYO: Record investments of $50 billion have turned 2019 into a banner year for liquefied natural gas (LNG), with Canada and the US being the main drivers, the chief of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

The industrial sector is Asia’s biggest driver of LNG growth, with China expected to overtake Japan as the world’s top importer of the fuel in five years, said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director.

“This year, 2019 already broke the highest amount of (final investment decisions) for the first time ever, $50 billion,” he told the annual LNG Producer-Consumer conference in Tokyo.

More than 170 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas liquefaction capacity is due to take a final investment decision this year, a record far surpassing the previous high in 2005 of 70 bcm, according to the IEA.

The recent boost in contracting activity and project sanctioning follows the growing adoption of the equity offtake marketing structure, where companies have access to LNG volumes according to their equity stake, reducing the need for long-term sale and purchase agreements, the energy agency said in a new report which it released this month.

“The biggest growth is coming from China,” Birol added. “In the next five years, about one-third of global LNG demand will come from China alone.”

While LNG imports by Japan, the world’s top buyer of the super-chilled fuel, and Korea are expected to stay important, slowing growth there means the biggest contribution will be from China, Birol said.

Other Asian nations, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Thailand, are also importing more LNG.

European LNG imports will also increase as domestic gas production declines and nations diversify supply, Birol said.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.