Saudi Crude Exports Drop Amid Price Cut to Defend Share

Saudi Arabia’s crude exports dropped from an 11-month high in February when the world’s biggest oil shipper took steps to boost demand and defend its market share.

Exports fell to 7.35 million barrels a day from 7.47 million in January, the highest since February 2014, according to figures published Sunday on the website of the Joint Organisations Data Initiative. Shipments were down from 7.76 million barrels a day in February last year.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, announced price cuts in February for oil sales to Asia to the lowest in at least 14 years in a sign that it was continuing to fight for market share. Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said in March global demand for oil was improving gradually.

“Keeping the market share is very important and it seems that the Saudis don’t want to see their crude exports fall below the 7.4 million barrels mark,” said Essam al-Marzouq, a Kuwait- based oil analyst. “The Saudi exports data of the first two months of 2015 suggests that they needed to give more discounts to stimulate demand for their crude.”

Saudi Arabia, which led the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries last year in refusing to cut output, produced 10.3 million barrels a day last month and will keep pumping for now at around 10 million, al-Naimi said this month.

Crude shipments in the first two months of 2015 averaged 7.4 million barrels a day, up from 7.1 million barrels a day in the last two months of 2014 and lower than the 7.63 million barrels a day average in the first two months of 2014, JODI data show.

Burning of crude, a sign of how much oil is available domestically to generate power, rose to 315,000 barrels a day in February from 276,000 barrels a day in January, while domestic refineries processed 2.08 million barrels a day compared with 2.1 million barrels a day in January, according to JODI data.

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