Saudis raise Asian oil prices as vaccines spur demand

By Sharon Cho and Anthony Di Paola on 12/6/2020

(Bloomberg) --Saudi Arabia raised oil pricing for customers in its main market of Asia after optimism over coronavirus vaccines caused crude prices to rise to an eight-month high last week.

The increase, the biggest in five months, indicates the world’s largest oil exporter is confident global energy demand is strong enough to absorb a small boost in output from OPEC+ members next month and that markets will remain tight even with parts of Europe and the U.S. in lockdown.

The Saudis lowered prices in September, October and December as virus cases surged, crimping demand for crude demand.

This time, state producer Saudi Aramco raised pricing for Arab Light crude for Asia by 80 cents a barrel to 30 cents above the benchmark. Aramco had been expected to increase pricing for the grade by 65 cents, according to a Bloomberg survey of seven traders and refiners.

Aramco also increased pricing for light crude grades to the Mediterranean region and kept them unchanged for northwest Europe. It lowered pricing for all grades to the U.S. to the lowest since May. Saudi exports to the U.S. have plummeted this year.

Brent crude rose 2.2% last week to $49.25 a barrel, its highest level since early March. It’s still down about down about 25% this year.

At the height of the pandemic, governments were forced to shut businesses and ground flights.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia agreed last week to add 500,000 barrels a day to crude markets from January. That was less than the increase of 2 million barrels a day the group had agreed to in April, when its struck its deal to cut output.

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