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Analysis: Middle East crude oil complex nosedives on bearish sentiment

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Analysis: Middle East crude oil complex nosedives on bearish sentiment

Singapore — Market structure and flat prices came down significantly in the Middle East crude oil complex Wednesday, amid a general sell-off in global crude oil markets, traders told S&P Global Platts.

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At 4:30 pm Singapore time (0830 GMT), the outright price for December cash Dubai, the most prompt month trading in October, settled at $74.40/b, down 4.42% on the day from $77.84/b.

This is the largest day-on-day move in the flat price in about four months.

Previously cash Dubai M1 moved 4.55% lower on June 18 to $70.94/b.

Prices followed global crude sentiment lower, with a general bearish tune to oil markets on Wednesday, traders said.

"I think it's just a general downtrend; everything is coming off," said a Singapore-based crude oil trader.

A second trader said: "All risk off today it seems."

The plunge in price activity pulled the market structure lower across the board. The spread between cash Dubai M1 and M3 moved to a backwardation of 68 cents/b from $1.09/b Tuesday, Platts data showed at the close of business in Singapore Wednesday.

The structure had briefly dipped below $1/b earlier this month, when it was assessed at 95 cents/b on October 18, but has otherwise stayed firmly above that level since September.

It was previously lower than 68 cents/b on August 29, at 61 cents/b.

The Dubai M1-M3 structure is tracked by traders of Middle East crude grades as an indication of spot market trading sentiment. At 68 cents/b the structure remains in backwardation, implying higher demand for prompt cargoes than for future ones, but with relatively less urgency than if it was above $1/b.

DME OMAN RESISTS DOWNWARD MOVE

Despite the risk off sentiment in global crude oil benchmarks, the December Oman futures contract traded relatively higher Wednesday on the Dubai Mercantile Exchange, Platts data showed.

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The DME Oman market price at 4:30 pm Singapore time (0830 GMT) was pegged at $75.42/b, just 28 cents/b lower than December ICE Brent futures at the same time.

The same spread between the two averaged $2.12/b on a year to date basis as of Wednesday, Platts data showed.

Market sources said the DME futures contract tends to experience high volatility in prices towards the tail end of each month, when buyers and sellers of physical cargoes attempt to cover their positions.

The end-month volatility caused widespread confusion across Middle East crude oil markets late last month when it traded several dollars higher than ICE Brent futures for four days running. The phenomenon was widely labeled as an extreme case of short-covering positions going into the end of the month.

The spread between DME Oman and Platts cash Oman as of 4:30 pm Singapore has also seen increased widening in the second half of this month, landing at 32 cents/b on Wednesday. It averaged 12 cents/b on a year-to-date basis, Platts data showed.

Platts assessed cash December Oman at $75.10/b on Wednesday. The Platts crude Market on Close assessment process saw two offers on December Oman partials on the day. Unipec offered a 25,000-barrel partial of Oman crude at $75.15/b as of 04:30 pm Singapore time, while Reliance's offer was standing at $75.30/b as of the close. No buying interest was seen for Oman partials on the day.

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

--Edited by Jonathan Fox, jonathan.fox@spglobal.com