August 9, 2019 / 5:24 PM / 3 months ago

China charters first U.S. crude cargo since newest Trump tariff threat - sources

NEW YORK, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Chinese oil trader Unipec chartered a supertanker to ship U.S. crude to China in September, trading sources said, the first such cargo since U.S. President Donald Trump announced additional tariffs on Chinese import, ending a monthlong trade truce.

Unipec, the trading arm of state refiner Sinopec , has fixed the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Anne to load U.S. crude in mid-September, according to a shipbroker and Refinitiv Eikon data. VLCCs are capable of transporting about 2 million barrels of crude.

Unipec has three other vessels, the New Caesar, the KHK Empress and the New Melody, either loading or set to depart the United States this month, the data showed.

China is set to receive nearly 11 million U.S. barrels in August, the highest since June 2018, according to Refinitiv Eikon vessel tracking data. Another 4.1 million barrels are currently set to arrive in September.

Tankers loading in August and September are estimated to arrive by October and November, market sources said.

China was the third biggest buyer of U.S. crude in June, a period of relative calm during the prolonged trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

Since then, Trump has announced new tariffs. While China has imposed levies of its own on most imports from the United States, it has thus far not elected to do so with crude oil. China's purchases of U.S. crude have dropped sharply from record levels last year.

U.S. crude's discount to Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1 narrowed to the smallest since July 2018 on Friday, falling to as little as$4.25 a barrel. That makes U.S. crude less attractive to foreign buyers, U.S. crude sellers and traders said.

"At this WTI/Brent level no one should be buying U.S. crude if they have a choice," one trade source said. (Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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