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DUBAI FUTURES: Middle East complex holds firm awaiting spot market kick off

Singapore — Spreads for benchmark Dubai crude futures were steady Tuesday morning in Asia as market participants readied for spot trading of March-loading cargoes to kick off this week.

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The March Brent/Dubai Exchange of Futures for Swaps spread was pegged at $1.78/b at 11 am in Singapore, little changed from the $1.79/b assessment on Monday evening at the close of trading in Asia (0830 GMT).

This is the narrowest the Brent/Dubai EFS has been in nine months, last narrower at $1.63/b on April 8, 2019.

The contraction in the EFS resulted from the retreat in Brent markers as risk of an escalation in US-Iran tensions eased, while Dubai crude values held in place due to the direct fundamental impact of the region's conflict on Middle East crude grades priced against Platts front-month Dubai crude assessments.

Meanwhile, traders in Asia are expecting activity in the Middle East spot market to kick off this week, as refiners complete their linear program modeling for the month of March, market participants told Platts.

Qatar Petroleum's Al-Shaheen tender will once again be closely watched by the market to provide cues about buyer sentiment.

The tender, offering three cargoes of Al-Shaheen as well as one clip each of Qatar Land and Marine crudes, closes January 14, and is valid until January 15. Results are likely to be known towards the end of this week, traders said.

Intermonth spreads for Dubai crude futures slipped a few notches, but held within the 90s-cents/b trading range Tuesday morning.

The February/March spread was pegged at 92 cents/b at 11 am in Singapore (0300 GMT), down from an assessed 95 cents/b at 4:30 pm on Monday.

The March/April spread was pegged at 91 cents/b Tuesday morning, unchanged from its assessment at Monday's Asian close.