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Sour crude spreads steady as market mulls January requirements

Singapore — Benchmark Dubai crude futures spreads held largely steady in mid-morning trading in Asia Thursday, with market participants in Asia focused on determining buying requirements for cargoes loading from the Middle East in January.

The December/January intermonth spread for Dubai futures edged down to $1.17/b as of 11 am in Singapore (0300 GMT) Thursday morning after being assessed at $1.18/b at Wednesday's 4:30 pm in Singapore (0830 GMT) close.

Market chatter quietened down a tad toward the latter half of the week in Asia, with refiners starting to compare official selling prices released by a subset of Middle East producers in the first half of the week.

Producers Saudi Aramco, Qatar Petroleum and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company all released their OSPs earlier this week. The majority of their crude grades flowing to Asia saw their official selling price differentials rising, with the exception of Saudi Aramco's Arab Medium and Arab Heavy crudes.

Still, market participants say they expect resilient demand for Middle East cargoes in the Asia market through November, which will see January-loading cargoes trade in the prompt spot market.

The January/February Dubai futures intermonth spread also hovered within a steady range between Wednesday's close and Thursday morning, ticking down from the assessment at 81 cents/b at 4:30 pm (0830 GMT) Wednesday to 79 cents/b (0300 GMT) at 11 am Thursday.

Meanwhile, the January Brent/Dubai Exchange Futures for Swaps spread continued to edge higher to $3.88/b Thursday morning from the assessment at $3.80/b Wednesday.

The widening EFS indicates that the market is pricing in expected premiums for low sulfur crude over high sulfur crude in anticipation of the International Maritime Organization's January 2020 implementation of lower sulfur marine fuel standards globally.

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

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com