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Gasoline rises in Asia after US gasoline stock draw, but outlook remains weak

Singapore — Asian gasoline crack spreads rose in mid-morning trade in Asia Thursday after a draw in weekly US gasoline stocks data was reported overnight, but the near-term outlook remains weak as escalating lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic continue to batter demand.

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The front-month April 92 RON gasoline swap crack against front-month ICE Brent crude swap was pegged notionally by brokers in the range of minus $7.20-minus $7.30/b at 11 am Singapore time (0300 GMT), strengthening from minus $8.86/b at the 4:30 pm Singapore time (0830 GMT) close of Asia trade Wednesday.

The physical FOB Singapore 92 RON gasoline crack against front-month ICE Brent crude futures traced the uptick to be pegged at minus $4.90/b-minus $5.00/b at 0300 GMT Thursday, after hitting a fresh 12-year low at minus $6.71/b at 0830 GMT Wednesday. It was last lower on December 10, 2008 at minus $6.99/b, S&P Global Platts data showed.

"Everyone is looking for any bullish news they can find that can potentially lift up spirits. Most of the new data has been very bearish," a Singapore-based source said.

US gasoline inventories fell 1.54 million barrels to 239.28 million barrels in the week ended March 20, US Energy Information Administration data showed.

"The data shows that at least the seasonal draw is still there, but this might change moving forward," the source said.

The stock draw came despite total product supplied for gasoline -- considered a proxy for demand -- falling 860,000 b/d in the week to 8.84 million b/d, posting the biggest single-week slide since Category 5 Hurricane Dorian hit the USAC in early September 2019, EIA data showed.

Gasoline demand is poised to fall this further this week as the number of US states issuing stay-at-home orders rises to at least 17, encompassing more than 50% of the US population, Platts reported earlier.

Gasoline fundamentals in Asia have similarly been hard hit by the sharp fall in demand resulting from pandemic containment measures.

India, the world's second most populous nation with 1.3 billion people, imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown from Wednesday, while Malaysia late Wednesday extended its nationwide lockdown to April 14.

Reflecting the bearishness, the Asian gasoline complex deepened further into contango at Wednesday's close, with the April/May and May/June swap spreads assessed at minus $1.56/b and minus $1.62/b, respectively, Platts data showed. A day earlier, the spreads were assessed at minus $1.30/b and minus $1.40/b, respectively.