By Ekaterina Kravtsova
LONDON (Reuters) - The upward trend in Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices reversed this week as ample offers of cargoes saturated a market where demand was limited.
After rising for two weeks to reach over $6.00 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) in the second week of April, the June price for delivery of LNG into northeast Asia dropped into $5.00 territory, sources said.
The average June price was estimated at $5.40 per mmBtu on Thursday as offers of supply met with sluggish demand and a drop in European gas prices.
Reflecting the low levels of local demand, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) issued a sell tender for a July delivery cargo to ports outside China from its Hainan terminal.
Offers also came from Australia's Ichthys project and Malaysian producer Petronas, each for one June cargo, three trade sources said.
Energy majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell are also offering June cargoes, two of the sources said.
On the demand side, Japan's Toho Gas Co is looking for a cargo to be delivered in July, with the rest of Asia's requirements largely fulfilled last week.
South Korea's GS Energy bought a cargo last week for early June delivery at a price close to $6.00 per mmBtu, LNG traders said.
Argentine energy company Integracion Energetica Argentina (IEASA), formerly known as ENARSA, has a buy tender for eight August cargoes open until April 25.
Indian companies continued to look for cargoes but limited import capacity was not leaving much room for spot deliveries, a source active on the Indian market said.
Prices for June supply to the country followed the downward trend in northeast Asian prices and were estimated at $5.10 per mmBtu on Thursday.
Indian Oil Corp has a tender for June delivery open until April 24.
In Europe, trading activity was subdued, with only opportunistic interest in LNG cargoes amid a generally oversupplied European gas market.
The front-month price in the Netherlands has dropped by almost 30 cents in the past week and traded just below $5.00 per mmBtu on Thursday. LNG cargoes were priced at around a 30 cent discount to benchmark gas hub prices, traders said.
Asian LNG front-month prices regained a premium over the Dutch front-month price this week for the first time since mid-March. However, the premium was still too small to open the arbitrage between Pacific and Atlantic basins and incentivise spot trade of Atlantic cargoes into Asia.
(Reporting by Ekaterina Kravtsova; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)