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Intermonth spreads steady as margin concerns cap further upticks

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Platts Global Alert - Oil

Intermonth spreads steady as margin concerns cap further upticks

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Poor margins amid expected increase in OSPs weighing on sentiment

Cash differentials of Middle East crudes plateauing

Singapore — Intermonth spreads for benchmark Dubai crude futures were largely rangebound midmorning in Asia on June 30, the last trading day for the Middle East sour crude market for June, as concerns on margins cap further support seen from sour supply cuts.

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At 11 am in Singapore (0300 GMT), the July-August Dubai crude futures spread was pegged at a 46 cents/b backwardation, just a cent wider from the 45 cents/b assessed at the 4:30 pm close (0830 GMT) on June 29, S&P Global Platts data showed.

The August-September spread was pegged at 5 cents/b midmorning on June 30, unchanged from the Asian close on June 29.

The spreads have traded around a steady range after a short-lived spike early on June 29, which saw the prompt-month spreads widening to over 50 cents/b -- the highest for the month.

August Dubai futures, meanwhile, was higher at $40.72/b midmorning on June 30, up 3.7% from the Asian close on June 29, as Dubai futures narrowed its spread against ICE Brent futures to be pegged at 80 cents/b midmorning on June 30, down 11 cents/b from the 91 cents/b assessed at the Asian close on June 29, Platts data showed.

While supply-side factors, such as lower Russian Urals exports and Abu Dhabi's term cuts, continue to prop up the sour crude complex, expectations of a fresh round of official selling price hikes amid poor refining margins are weighing on sentiment, traders said.

"Margins are still horrible ... but there's not much lower refiners can go [on utilization rates] as they are already running at quite low rates," said a Singapore-based crude trader.

Cash differentials of Middle East sour crude barrels were also plateauing following a trade seen for one 500,000-barrel cargo of Abu Dhabi's Upper Zakum crude on the Platts Market on Close assessment process on June 29.

China's Unipec was seen purchasing the Upper Zakum cargo, for loading August 1-25 and coming with bill of lading price terms, from Singapore-based seller EXTAP, or ExxonMobil Trading Asia Pacific, at a discount of 50 cents/b to Upper Zakum's OSP in August.

Platts assessed the OSP differential for Upper Zakum at minus 50 cents/b on June 29, unchanged from the assessment on June 26.