Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, hiked July crude oil prices for Asian clients to higher-than-expected levels, citing constrained supply and anticipation of high demand this summer.
The official selling price (OSP) for July-loading Arab Light to Asia increased by $2.1 a barrel from June to $6.5 a barrel over Oman/Dubai quotations, just missing an all-time high set in May.
This was significantly greater than most market predictions of a $1.5% growth. In a Reuters poll, only one out of six respondents projected a $2 increase.
“The price jump is unexpected, especially the Arab Light. We are puzzled by the decision,” said an Asian oil trader.
Saudi Aramco’s increase occurred despite an agreement by OPEC+ members to increase output by 648,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in July and a comparable amount in August to compensate for Russian supply disruptions. In comparison, an early plan was for adding 432,000 bbl/d every month for the next three months, till September.
However, the increases have been distributed among member countries, including Russia and those like Angola and Nigeria, who are struggling to fulfil their commitments, raising concerns that the real supply rise would fall short of official expectations.
“Demand is also very strong in this cycle and Saudi can afford to hike OSPs,” said another Asian oil trader.
Saudi oil demand could be dampened by Russian oil flowing to China and India, which refuse to condemn Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine and have increased purchases of Russian cargo at bargain prices.
On Sunday night, Saudi Aramco also raised its OSP for European and Mediterranean buyers, but left U.S. differentials unchanged.