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Asia-Pacific crude: Falling refining margins weigh on outlook

[SINGAPORE] Weaker refining margins were expected to weigh on demand in the Asia-Pacific crude market when trading for April-loading cargoes gets underway next week.

Complex refining margins in the Singapore hub have averaged just below $7 a barrel in the past week, compared with about US$10 a barrel in January.

Lower gasoline and naphtha cracks dented Asian refiners'profit margins, even as fuel oil cracks improved.

Asia's gasoline margin last week posted its biggest weekly fall in more than two years on ample supplies, although traders said it may rebound by March as refineries enter a maintenance period and buyers stockpile for peak summer demand.

Thai demand provided some relief for sellers, after state-run PTT purchased a total of 1.8 million barrels in a tender for refiner IRPC, including 1 million barrels of Azeri Light and 600,000 barrels of Malaysian Kikeh, traders said.

Pricing details and the identity of the sellers were unclear.

Brent's premium to Dubai swaps, or Brent-Dubai Exchange of Futures for Swaps (EFS) DUB-EFS-1M , widened 22 cents to US$2.98 a barrel, the widest in two weeks.