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Prompt intermonths for Dubai crude widen; focus on next trade cycle

Singapore — Prompt intermonth spreads for benchmark Dubai crude widened mid-morning Jan. 27, as focus shifts to trade activity for April-loading cargoes.

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At 11 am in Singapore (0300 GMT), the March/April Dubai time spread was valued at 30 cents/b, up 2 cents/b from the Asia close Jan. 26, S&P Global Platts data showed.

The April/May Dubai intermonth spread was pegged at 40 cents/b, up 3 cents/b from the previous day, the data showed.

Traders were busy in discussions about the new trade cycle that commences with concerns about demand, COVID-19 outbreaks and carry over of unsold cargoes from the current March-loading cycle.

Recent tender purchases by Asian refiners for select grades flipped from discounts to nominal premiums, allowing sellers to remain bullish about demand in the next trade cycle.

"Heard CPC bought Upper Zakum at parity to OSP when it was earlier at a discount. Seems sellers being quite aggressive on unsold cargoes," said a trader with a North Asian refiner.

Market participants awaited the outcome of India's MRPL tender for one-million barrels of high sulfur crude, which closes Jan. 27 with validity until Jan. 29.

However, with COVID-19 cases consistently rising across major Asian economies, the outlook heading into the next trade cycle looks uncertain and demand for crude oil remains subdued.

The front-month Brent/Dubai Exchange of Futures for Swap was valued at $1.06/b at 11 am in Singapore(0300 GMT) on Jan. 27, up 5 cents/b from the Asian close on Jan. 26, Platts data showed.

The Brent/Dubai EFS is a key indicator of the spread between light, sweet and heavy, sour crudes, and a wide EFS makes crude priced against Dubai more economically attractive for Asian refiners compared to Brent-linked ones.