CPO stocks likely to remain elevated

Palm oil stock in Malaysia rose 7% month-on-month (m-o-m) and 19% year-on-year (y-o-y) to an eight-month high of 1.77 million tonnes in July on higher production and lower domestic use.

PETALING JAYA: Crude palm oil (CPO) stocks are set to increase further in August as the domestic production cycle peaks but comes at a time when demand seasonally lacks catalysts.

Palm oil stock in Malaysia rose 7% month-on-month (m-o-m) and 19% year-on-year (y-o-y) to an eight-month high of 1.77 million tonnes in July on higher production and lower domestic use.

The figure would have been higher if not for a rise in exports in the month.

“We view the rise in palm oil stocks as neutral for CPO price as this has been largely expected by the market,” CGS CIMB Research said in a report yesterday.

Malaysian palm oil exports rose 11% m-o-m but fell 6% y-o-y to 1.3 million tonnes in July due partly to exports from Indonesia were held back in anticipation of cuts in export tax from August.

On Aug 1, the Indonesian government cut its export tax on CPO to US$33 (RM146.68) per tonne for Aug 1-15, 2022 but on Aug 8, it announced a lower export tax threshold for CPO to a reference price of US$680 (RM3,022.60) from US$750 (RM3,333.75) per tonne.

Jakarta also raised its CPO export tax to US$52 (RM231) per tonne for Aug 9-15 from US$33 (RM147) per tonne previously.

Malaysian CPO output in July rose 1.8% m-o-m and 3% y-o-y to 1.57 million tonnes but on a year-to-date basis, output fell 0.4% to 9.84 million tonnes on lower output in Sabah and Sarawak.

HLIB Research expects domestic stock levels will rise further in August due to the higher production cycle but expects CPO prices to remain steady due to uncertainty in the edible oil market and demand pick up.

“We maintain 2022-2024 CPO price assumptions of RM5,500/RM4,500/RM3,800 per tonne.

“While Indonesia’s move to flush out palm oil inventories will likely suppress near-term CPO price, the recent severe CPO price decline is overdone.

“This is because supply prospects of major vegetable oil remains uncertain, demand prospects have turned more favourable on the back of palm’s improved price competitiveness, low inventory levels among major importing countries and a favourable palm oil to heating oil (Pogo) spread,” it said.

The research house has maintained its “overweight” call on integrated sector players based on commendable valuations and expectations of CPO price recovery.

Its top picks are Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (“buy”; target price or TP: RM26.54) and IOI Corp Bhd (“buy”; TP: RM4.36) as their earnings are better insulated against volatility in palm product prices.

CGS-CIMB Research, meanwhile, projects palm oil stocks to rise 13.5% m-o-m to two million tonnes in August on higher output (+3% m-o-m) and lower exports (-3% m-o-m).

“We believe CPO prices could trade in the RM4,000 to RM5,000-per-tonne range in August.

“CPO prices could weaken due to stiffer competition from Indonesian palm oil and lower export tax in Indonesia but the downside will be capped by the current CPO wide pricing discount of US$290 to US$320 (RM1,289 to RM1,422) per tonne against soyoil,” it said.

CGS-CIMB expects Malaysian upstream planters to post flat-to-higher sequential earnings in the second quarter due to higher CPO prices.

However, the weaker second half (2H) CPO prices, coupled with higher operating costs, will lead to lower profit margins in 2H.

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