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Sour crude spreads soften on demand pullback

Singapore — Benchmark Dubai crude futures' spreads ticked lower in mid-morning trading in Asia on Thursday, as demand from Asian end-users dissipated toward the close of the October trading cycle, market sources told S&P Global Platts.

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At 11 am in Singapore on Thursday (0300 GMT), the October Brent/Dubai futures spread, or Exchange of Futures for Swaps, widened to $2.75/b from the $2.47/b assessment at Wednesday's Asian close.

The September/October Dubai futures spread also ticked down a notch to $1/b Thursday morning, from $1.01/b Wednesday, while the October/November spread fell to 79 cents/b from its assessed level of 82 cents/b on Wednesday.

October-loading requirements for refiners in Asia have largely been covered as August draws to a close, said crude traders.

Meanwhile, geopolitical developments remained a key concern and could have a large impact on crude trading activities in Asia, they added.

The US-China trade tensions, and now US-Iran developments on the sanctions issue are all Asia-centric matters, they said.

Earlier this week, the US and Iran seemed to have reached an impasse on progressing bilateral talks at the G7 summit. US President Donald Trump's comments at the summit had led to some speculation that he and Rouhani could meet at the UN General Assembly in New York next month, potentially paving the way for at least a partial lifting of the sanctions. The sanctions were re-imposed on Iran's oil sector after the US unilaterally withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal last fall.

At the same time, China may soon test the Trump administration's reluctance to sanction a major Chinese bank, due to the impact such an action would have on the global economy, if the trade dispute between the two nations drags on, analysts told Platts.

"I think the Chinese have thus far tried to thread a variety of needles, with domestic constituencies and the Trump Administration," said Richard Nephew, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, and the principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the US State Department during the Obama administration. "If they decide they no longer want to, then I think that will also affect their attitude to US-sanctioned oil."

--Eesha Muneeb, eesha.muneeb@spglobal.com

--Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

--Edited by Nurul Darni, nurul.indriani.darni@spglobal.com