Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, raised June prices for all of its crude grades to Asia, the state energy giant said on Wednesday, as the supply and demand picture tightens.
Saudi Aramco raised the official selling prices for its Arab Light crude grade to customers in Asia — its biggest buyer — to a $1.90 a barrel premium compared with the Oman/Dubai contract.
This was a 70 cent uptick compared with the prior month, with the kingdom raising prices for other grades by an even higher level. Oil analysts said this was a reflection of a more bullish market.
“Sellers are regaining pricing power,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects. “Refineries will be coming out of their maintenance period in June and buying up more crude in tight market, which means producers can start commanding higher prices,” she added.
The increase followed an unexpected rise last month for Asian buyers, which prompted some refiners to reduce their imports of Saudi crude, according to traders and analysts.
June prices for Arab Light to Europe, however, fell to a $4.20 a barrel discount to the regional ICE Brent marker, a $1.25 drop compared with the month before. Refineries in the continent are still undergoing maintenance and taking in less crude, creating the comparative weakness.
Yet the global Brent crude benchmark jumped above $75 a barrel earlier this week as Opec-led cuts take effect, demand for oil remains strong and robust production from US shale oilfields is absorbed by the market. Geopolitical concerns, such as tensions between the US and Iran over the nuclear deal with western powers were also in focus.
Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, told state television on Wednesday that producers were monitoring markets and the production in certain countries that could face drops to their output. Venezuela is one producer that has seen a dramatic decline in production as political and economic crises take hold.
“In case there is need to change plans then countries will do what they have to do based in market data,” said Mr Falih. Yet he added that the kingdom’s view “remains the same” and the cuts embarked upon with Opec peers and allies outside of the cartel including Russia should be maintained until the end of 2018.
As prices have risen, questions have mounted about how long producers will need to keep curbing output. Saudi Arabia needs higher oil prices to fund an ambitious social and economic reform programme and bolster the valuation of Saudi Aramco ahead of a planned public offering.
Additional reporting by Ahmed Al Omran
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