Malaysian palm oil futures soared around 4% to a four-year high, tracking a soyoil rally just a day earlier, after the US lifted its target for use of biodiesel, which is made from the vegetable oils.
Malaysian palm oil futures for February touched 3,098 ringgit a tonne in Kuala Lumpur, the highest for a benchmark contract since September 2014, before easing back to 3,004 ringgit a tonne in late deals, a gain of 1.7% on the day.
The jump followed the US Environment Protection Agency’s announcement overnight that it was to lift to 4.28bn gallons its forecast for US biodiesel use in 2017, up by 280m gallons from a May estimate.
“The new biofuel target was above expectations and unexpected, especially during the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Edward Hugo, analyst at VSA Capital.
“This sent US soyoil prices soaring. As palm oil is a substitute for soyoil, the palm oil price moved up too.”
‘Caught traders off guard’
Soyoil futures for December on Thursday soared 6.9% to 36.85 cents a pound on news of the EPA’s move, the highest for a spot contract since July 2014, with the better-traded January lot adding 6.5%.
The agency’s move “was a surprise, especially as it was released a day before a major US holiday. It caught traders off guard,” said Terry Reilly, at Chicago broker Futures International.
Tobin Gorey at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said that the “larger-than-expected lift [to the EPA target] fuelled ideas that already tight vegetable oil supply would become even tighter in 2017”.
The US government is trying to encourage energy companies to use a greater amount of biofuel, appeasing Midwest farmers who supply ethanol and the environment activists.
This is in line with the Renewable Fuel Standard programme, which was signed into law by President George W Bush in 2005, designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, promote energy independence and boost rural economies by raising biofuel demand.
“The raised target is good for farmers, who comprise huge lobbies,” said Mr Hugo. “It also follows climate change regulations.”
‘Higher fuel consumption’
After turning a blind eye to biofuels in 2013, the Obama administration is again going down the path of its promotion.
“This is possible thanks to the much higher level of fuel consumption over the past two years,” said Commerzbank.
“The question, however, is whether the new US President Trump will continue down this path.”
But Mr Hugo believes the president-elect will continue towards biofuel promotion.
“Trump has support from US farmers, many of whom voted for him,” he said. “He won’t want to upset them.”
Moreover, he said Trump has rolled back on a number of promises he earlier made.
“Earlier, he called global warming a myth by China,” Mr Hugo said. “Now, he recognises its correlation with human action.”
(Source – http://www.agrimoney.com/news/palm-oil-prices-hit-four-year-high-after-us-lifts-biodiesel-target–10194.html)