London — Robust Asian demand and favourable U.S. gasoline cracks prompted sellers of Nigerian lighter grades to push up differentials, but some potential European buyers awaited markdowns. U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan exports continued to support high differentials for comparable medium-heavy Angolan grades.
* Around 14-15 cargoes remain for April-loading
* Bonny light and Qua Iboe for April are being offered for about 50 cents less than indications of around $2 above dated Brent for May
* Still, a trader said market structure and freight costs are making European buyers more inclined to prefer CPC and North Sea grades which will save them 30-40 cents per barrel
* U.S. gasoline cracks for lighter grades also encouraged shipments to the U.S. Gulf, which had long been on the decline
* Trade was swift on continued interest from Chinese and Indian buyers
* Medium-heavy Pazflor was being offered at a $1.50 premium compared to dated Brent and differentials for Girassol were also heard to be up
* India’s IOC is running a buy tender for 2-3 cargoes
* Indonesia’s Pertamina issued a tender to buy crude oil for May delivery
* Uruguay’s state-run oil company ANCAP is running a buy tender
* The United States has instructed oil trading houses and refiners around the world to further cut dealings with Venezuela or face sanctions themselves, even if trades are not prohibited by published U.S. sanctions, sources said.
* Analysts have turned cautiously optimistic on oil prices this year, predicting that cuts by OPEC and its allies along with U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela will defy headwinds from U.S. output and a dampening global economy.