Benchmark Dubai crude futures spreads firmed in midmorning trading in Asia on Tuesday, with a shorter December loading program for Russia's Urals crude lending support to Middle East sour grades of similar quality trading in Asia.
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Notional price values pegged at 11 am in Singapore (0300 GMT) Tuesday showed the December/January Dubai futures spread widening to $1.26/b from an assessed $1.22/b at the close of trading on Monday.
However, the January/February Dubai futures spread looked steady, and was pegged at 86 cents/b at 11 am, down a tick from Monday's assessment of 87 cents/b.
A shorter provisional loading program seen by S&P Global Platts showed preliminary December loadings ticking down 280,000 mt month on month. Total Urals crude loadings from the ports of Primorsk, Ust-Luga and Novorossiisk are set to total 720,000 mt in the first five days of December, the program showed, or averaging 1,041,120 b/d, compared with 1,446,000 b/d over the same period in November.
November loadings for Urals from the Baltic are already at their lowest in almost five years, with further tightness in the December program expected to raise prices on similar alternative crude grades, traders said.
"Medium sour still tight," a trader in Asia said of the spot market this month.
Middle East sour crudes have traded in firm premiums on the spot market this month. Most cargoes being picked up by Asian buyers are scheduled to load from the Persian Gulf in January, with some grades like Iraqi Basrah crudes trading for December loading instead.
Tenders awarded late last week showed strength for medium, high sulfur crude grades, such as Bahrain's Banoco Arab Medium crude. Japan's Fuji Oil was heard to have picked up a cargo of the grade at a premium close to 70 cents/b over the Arab Medium January OSP, market sources said.
December loading Basrah Light crude, a medium-heavy grade from Iraq, was also reported to have been sold at a premium of between $1/b and $1.30/b over its December OSP, according to traders on Tuesday. This was up considerably from what it traded last month. November loading cargoes of Basrah Light fetched between 15 cents/b to 65 cents/b premiums over the OSP in spot market deals.
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