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OPEC Reference Basket in March 2013

Source: 4/16/2013, Location: Europe

The OPEC Reference Basket retreated by more than 5% in March to average $106.44/b. The decline was the largest since the 14% drop in June last year. The Basketís value reflected bearish market sentiment as outright international crude oil prices weakened by record levels, particularly in the North Sea market. Reduced refinery demand due to substantial maintenance worldwide was a key in pushing prices lower. European refinery turnarounds, which are scheduled to peak in March and April, cut demand for North Sea crudes, putting downward pressure on prices. This, coupled with renewed fears over Euro-zone economic turmoil and increased North Sea production, reversed the previous upward momentum, despite positive US and Chinese economic data.

On a monthly basis, the OPEC Reference Basket slipped by $6.31/b or 5.6% compared to the previous month. Year-to-date, the Basket was $7.91/b or 6.7% lower than in the first quarter of last year, when prices averaged $117.40/b.

All Basket component values weakened in March, particularly Dated Brent-related crudes. Saharan Blend, Es Sider, Girassol and Bonny Light dropped by 6.6% to average $109.32/b, a decline of $7.73. These grades were affected by European refinery turnarounds, which limited demand for North Sea crudes and put downward pressure on prices. More Urals cargoes also reached Europe in March, as higher FSU production coincided with maintenance shutdowns at Russian refineries. Multidestination grades that also lost ground were Iran Heavy, Basrah light, Kuwait Export and Arab Light, which weakened by around $6.50 or about 5.8% on average. Middle Eastern Qatar Marine and Murban decreased by almost 5% or $5.53 over the month of March to stand at $112.43/b. In Latin America, Ecuadorís Oriente and Venezuelan Merey fell by a slightly lower $2.97 or 2.9% to a monthly average of $99.71/b.

On 9 April, the OPEC Reference Basket stood at $102.72/b.

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