Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Nine Nigerian crude cargoes for loading in March, or 13 percent, remain unsold as increased demand for gasoline in the U.S. boosted purchases of the West African nation’s grades, according to four traders who participate in the market.
That’s below the normal for this time of the month with all the March consignments of Qua Iboe, the country’s benchmark and biggest grade, now sold, the traders said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. Three lots of Forcados, two of Bonga and one each of Agbami, Brass River, Erha and Usan remain available, they said. That compares with 21 cargoes for February loading that were unsold as of Jan. 10, three traders said at the time.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, plans to export 69 shipments in March, totaling 2.05 million barrels a day, the lowest in four months, according to loading programs obtained by Bloomberg News. That compares with 65 lots, or 2.13 million barrels a day this month.
Increased demand from European refiners for the nation’s crude were sparked by higher gasoline margins, according to the people. Nigerian grades are typically light and sweet, or have lower sulfur, and yield a higher proportion of transportation fuels than heavy, sour blends.
Gasoline’s crack in Europe, or premium to Dated Brent, has more than doubled since Jan. 15 to $13.13 a barrel as of 1.44 p.m. local time today, according to PVM Oil Associates Ltd., a London-based broker. It climbed to the highest in four months at $13.92 on Jan. 30, the data show. The region is the biggest exporter of the fuel to America.
The four-week average for gasoline consumption in the U.S. for the week ended Feb. 1 was 0.1 percent higher than a year earlier, according to data from MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse report. It’s been down from the previous year every week except one since March 18, 2011.
Gasoline prices in the U.S. rose to the most in three months on Jan. 28 after Hess Corp. said it will shut its Port Reading, New Jersey, refinery at the end of February.
Qua Iboe was today priced at a premium of $2.29 a barrel to Dated Brent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with an average of $2.26 in January.
The size of the crude cargoes range from 475,000 barrels to 975,000 barrels. The export program for April is scheduled to be released in two weeks.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA run joint ventures with state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that pump about 90 percent of the country’s crude.
Loading programs are monthly schedules of crude shipments compiled by field operators to allow buyers and sellers to plan their supply and trading activities.
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