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Sluggish April cargo buying sent the North Sea Dated Brent benchmark differential to the lowest in nearly two and a half years on Wednesday, S&P Global Platts data showed.
Dated Brent is a benchmark assessment of the price of physical, light North Sea crude oil. Dated Brent—the physical cargoes of crude oil loading in the North Sea on any given day, and with specific delivery dates—is the core component of the Brent complex. The Brent crude complex is linked to physical cash BFOE (Brent Ninian Blend -Forties-Oseberg-Ekofisk), as well as financially settled derivatives.
On Wednesday, Platts assessed the Dated Brent differential at -$1.025 a barrel, compared to -$0.825 per barrel on Tuesday. Wednesday’s assessment showed the widest discount since November 2015, when Dated Brent briefly fell below -$1.20 a barrel, according to S&P Global Platts data.
Earlier this week the prices for physical North Sea crude oil barrels were hovering around the lowest level since June last year, on the back of high maintenance rates across European refineries.
Trading sources concur that April buying of North Sea Brent is not enthusiastic, but they expect demand for North Sea crude oil to soon start growing again going into May, with both Asian and European demand expected to increase.
European refiners will be soon returning from maintenance, while Asian refiners are said to be willing to buy more crude oil from the North Sea.
But in April, the physical demand for North Sea crude is not bright, according to traders who spoke to Platts.
“I think there is a bit of a lack of eastern demand at the prompt, and refiners are covered -- people just don’t seem to have interest,” one trader said.
“People are probably covered forward though the Dated curve suggests a recovery comes soon,” another trader told Platts.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.