LONDON - Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices were down this week despite news of potential COVID lockdown easing in China as players await an actual rebound in procurement activity to meet Autum-Winter seasonal demand.

Meanwhile, in Europe, concerns about Russian pipeline supply have slightly receded on signs that some European buyers are paying for Russian gas via a new payment mechanism, with half of Gazprom's 54 clients have opened accounts at Gazprombank, as European companies approach imminent payment deadlines.

The average LNG price for July delivery into north-east Asia was estimated at $22.40 per metric million British thermal units (mmBtu), down $0.95 from the previous week, industry sources said.

LNG prices for a delivered ex-ship (DES) basis into the Northwest Europe were assessed at $22.638 per mmBtu on May 19, at a discount of $6.012/mmBtu to July price on the Dutch gas TTF hub, said Ciaran Roe, global director of LNG at S&P Global Commodity insights.

"Greater cargo slot availability at key terminals for July, lower discounts for British gas prices against the Dutch TTF prices in July and stronger demand from different regions such as Korea and Argentina via tenders have given some support to European LNG prices," Roe added.

For June deliveries, Spark Commodities said that DES LNG discount to the TTF has narrowed for the first time in 8 weeks, now at minus $7.52 per mmBtu.

"With the benchmark TTF gas price having retained a sizeable premium above spot Asian LNG prices for a month now, most European LNG-importing countries saw record high imports for the month of April and this is likely to remain a feature as long the premium remains in place," said Robert Songer, LNG analyst at data intelligence firm ICIS.

In the UK, export pipelines are running at maximum and storage filling is ahead of schedule, Songer said, adding that there were nine fewer cargoes to Britain over the last 30 days, according to ICIS LNG EDGE.

LNG freight spot rates were up over 60% in the last month in both basins, according to Spark Commodities, with Pacific rates estimated at $69,500 per day on Friday and the Atlantic rates at $76,500 per day.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Nina Chestney)