* Central, South America draw on Asian cargoes to fill gap
* Prices in Asia sharply lower than NYMEX futures
By Seng Li Peng
SINGAPORE, June 23 (Reuters) - As much as 60,000 tonnes of Asian gasoline is heading to South and Central America as higher prices and a supply shortfall in the region opened the rare east-to-Americas trade route, trade and industry sources said on Thursday.
More movements could be expected as Asia continues to struggle with high stockpiles although these eastbound trades would likely be ad-hoc rather than regular, they added.
Central and South America receive most of its gasoline from the U.S. Gulf Coast because of its proximity but the recent wildfires at Alberta, Canada, and refinery outages in the U.S. have affected its main supply source.
“The wildfires at Alberta and refinery outages in California had created a temporary tightness in that region,” said Sri Paravaikkarasu, a senior consultant at energy consultancy FGE.
“These unexpected events also came at a time when demand in the U.S. is firmer due to the summer driving season. All these factors created an opportunity to pull cargoes from Singapore,” she said.
She added that the higher prices in the West against the weak prices in Asia was the key factor behind the eastbound trades.
European trader Trafigura, who had a few months ago moved a gasoline cargo to the United States from China, was behind these rare shipments, traders said.
Trafigura declined to comment.
The exact ports of where the cargoes were lifted in Asia and where they would discharge in the Americas were not disclosed but sources not related to Trafigura expect supplies to be for areas in Mexico and South America.
Data from the Singapore’s trade agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore showed that nearly 35,500 tonnes of gasoline were shipped to Peru between June 9 and June 15.
Asia is grappling with weak gasoline prices due to excess supplies, which had previously resulted in petrol being stored on tankers as onshore tanks were filled to the brim.
Gasoline stockpiles in Singapore nearly at 13 million barrels in the week ending June 22, IE Singapore data showed, up 6.6 percent from a year ago. They hit a record 15.54 million barrels in early March.
Asia’s gasoline 92-octane benchmark price averaged $56.84 a barrel between June 1-22 versus NYMEX gasoline futures for the same period at $1.60 per gallon, or about $67.20 a barrel. GL92-SIN
The difference of more than $10 made it technically viable to move cargoes westwards, traders said.
“I expect more cargoes to move west but the volumes likely would not be enough to dissolve the glut in Asia,” said a Singapore-based gasoline trader.
Reporting by Seng Li Peng; Additional reporting by Florence Tan and Roslan Khasawneh; Editing by Christian Schmollinger