DUBAI/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia raised on Monday its light crude prices for sales to Asia in January to the highest in six years, tracking gains in the Middle East crude benchmark and higher margins for light distillates last month.
Tight supplies and increased demand for high-sulphur refining feedstock pushed the premium of the cash price for Middle East benchmark Dubai to swaps to the highest in six years in November.
In line with the gains, Saudi Aramco raised the January official selling price (OSP) for its Arab Light crude oil for Asian customers by 30 cents a barrel versus December to a premium of $3.70 per barrel to the Oman/Dubai average, the highest since January 2014.
The January OSP for Arab Extra Light sold to Asia was also raised to a six-year high after Aramco increased it by 70 cents to a premium of $5.80 a barrel.
The grade was further boosted by a jump in refining margins for naphtha, a petrochemical feedstock, that hit a near two-year high.
Aramco cut the January OSPs for Arab Medium and Arab Heavy crude after high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) margins plunged to record lows ahead of cleaner ship fuel rules set to start in January.
But the price cuts were less-than-expected because of higher demand for high-sulphur and heavier grades from new refineries in China, said two traders.
For customers in Northwest Europe, Saudi Arabia reduced its January Arab Light OSP, setting it at a discount of $1.85 a barrel to ICE Brent, down $1.80 a barrel from December.
The OSP for Arab Light to the United States was unchanged in January versus December at a premium of $3.35 a barrel to the Argus Sour Crude Index.
Reporting by Dahlia Nehme in Dubai, Shu Zhang and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Mark Potter and Christian Schmollinger