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Europe’s Energy Crunch Sparks Panic in Asia and Dash to Buy Fuel

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(Bloomberg) -- The energy crunch in Europe is sparking panic among Asian fuel buyers, causing importers from Japan to India to pay a hefty price for supplies.

Worried the eye-watering price of natural gas in Europe will spill over, LNG traders in Asia say they’re paying record prices for this time of year. Buyers in China and Pakistan have also pushed up the price of gas, coal, propane and fuel oil in order to compete with the U.K. and Spain.

The scramble for fuel isn’t likely to subside any time soon, with the weather getting colder and energy shortages worldwide. The global price rally is expected to continue through this winter when demand in the northern hemisphere peaks, fueling inflation and putting the fragile economic recovery at risk.

“Asia is panicking a little bit because they had a really bad winter last year,” said Ogan Kose, a managing director and global lead for Integrated Gas at Accenture. Buyers are preparing for another bad winter by ensuring they have enough inventory and are paying top rates for that, he said.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the liquefied natural gas market. On Wednesday, Japan’s Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Gail India Ltd. both procured LNG shipments for November and December delivery at prices that are among the highest ever for this time of year, according to traders with knowledge of the matter.

The purchases were due, at least in part, to this week’s jump in European gas prices on fears that the rally would extend to the Asian LNG spot rates, which are already at a seasonal high, the traders said, requesting anonymity to discuss private details.

LNG trading activity in the Pacific had stalled over the last few weeks due to volatile price swings, but the risk of further European gains could prompt more Asian importers to return to the spot market. Asian end-users had instead been opting to boost supplies via cheaper long-term contracts linked to oil, or halt spot buying altogether in a gamble that prices would eventually ease, which they haven’t.

(Updates with comment in fourth paragraph.)

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