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Brent/Dubai crude EFS jumps to 20-mth high
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August 4, 2010 12:51 by Reuters
Front-month Brent/Dubai Exchange of Futures for Swaps (EFS) for September jumped on Wednesday to the highest since December 2008 when OPEC producers began record supply curbs.
The spread between the price markers for Atlantic Basin and Middle Eastern crudes surged more than $1 to $2.75 a barrel during the first three days this week.
A wider Brent/Dubai EFS spread raises the relative cost for Asian refiners to buy West African, Mediterranean and Russian Urals grades.
“Dubai-linked crude seems to be more attractive because of the widening Brent-Dubai EFS,” a trader said, adding that Middle Eastern grades like Oman may recover compared with last month.
Traders attributed the jump to a strong Brent due to the tighter prompt physical oil market in Europe and a weak Dubai, especially after recent port and refinery accidents in Asia forced diversions of tankers and deferment of crude deliveries. Asian refiners import around three quarters of their crude from the Middle East.
Demand was also hit by unplanned maintenance. PetroChina will reduce crude processing at its Lanzhou refinery in August by about 10 percent from July as it will temporarily shut down a catalytic cracker.
Reflecting the weak sentiment in the Middle East market, the Dubai August/September intermonth spread widened to a discount of 85 cents on Wednesday, its steepest contango in one-and-a-half years, Reuters data show.
Oil prices rallied this week and hit a fresh three-month high above $82 a barrel on Tuesday, as the dollar fell and dealers anticipated a decline in U.S. crude inventories.
North Sea Brent crude oil futures rose to $82.68 a barrel on Tuesday, above U.S. crude for the first time since mid-June, as planned summer maintenance reduced supplies from British and Norwegian oil fields.
October Oman traded on the Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME) was assessed at a $1.50 discount to Dubai swap quotes on Tuesday.
Strong Brent prices will also curb Atlantic Basin crudes from entering Asia.
Asian imports of West African crude hit 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) in January when the EFS fell into a discount.
The imports would hit a record high of 1.93 million bpd of crude from West Africa in July, compared with 1.65 million bpd shipped in June, a Reuters survey showed last month.
“For dated Brent-linked grades, there should be some correction (in prices),” the trader said.
But growing availability of Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) have depressed freight rates from West Africa to Asia to worldscale 57.5 last week, down from more than worldscale 60 in early July, a shipbroker said.
Lower freight rates could offset some impact from higher EFS.
Demand for Malaysian and Indonesian crudes should remain firm on healthy fuel oil and gasoil cracks, the trader added.
(Additional reporting by Florence Tan, Jasmin Choo and Alejandro Barbajosa; Editing by Ramthan Hussain)