Angolan oil moved into the spotlight, with only a handful of March loading cargoes left available, traders said. The rapid trading, less than two weeks into the cycle, reflected open arbitrage going east and a buyer desire to book cargoes while prices were low.
"Angola seems to have cleared out," one trader said. "Freights are down, and people were happy to buy at these prices." Crude futures spiked during the day's trading on news that Russia and Saudi Arabia were ready to cooperate on production cuts. The details of any plan were disputed, and Iran, which is trying to regain market share, was an obstacle, but the volatility did little to temper interest in physical cargoes.
Tenders from Taiwan's CPC took two Angolan cargoes, while India's BPCL took as much as 3 million barrels of Nigerian crude. Buyers in the United States had begun booking both Angolan and Nigerian cargoes, as well as some Cameroonian crude, which also helped accelerate Asia's interest in booking the cargoes they need. "All buyers are coming back - China, U.S., Europe and Indian," another trader said.
The arbitrage window to the United States was closing, however, and most traders said new bookings would be limited. While the buying interest included the crudes of several West African nations, the slowdown had impacted Nigeria the most, as returning Asian buyers cleared Angolan crudes. "Nigeria's March programme has hardly traded at all," another trader said. "The offers are still relatively high."
* Just over a handful of February-loading crude oil cargoes were available, partly down to what buyers said were too-high offers.
* The overhang was smaller than at the same point in recent months, but March cargoes were slow to trade.
* The Erha programme for March included four cargoes of 1 million barrels each, pressing exports up to 1.96 million barrels per day (bpd).
* Exxon was offering Qua Iboe at $1.50 above dated Brent, which traders said was at least 60 cents above the real value.
* Loading delays continued on a number of Nigerian grades including Bonny Light, Qua Iboe, Brass River and Forcados.
* March cargoes sold rapidly, with roughly a handful left just 12 days into the trading cycle.
* Cheaper freight rates going east and strong buying interest in China and India helped clear out the cargoes.
* The grades left included Kissanje, Nemba, Cabinda and Saturno and Pazflor, though it is possible that others that had traded would be re-sold.
* Differentials found support, with Girassol inching up to a discount of around 40 cents versus dated Brent.
* Taiwan's CPC bought a cargo of Palanca from Total and a cargo of Cabinda from Chevron, both expected to load in March.
* Indian refiner BPCL bought a cargo each of Agbami and Qua Iboe from Chevron, and traders said it also took a second cargo of Agbami from Shell.
* Uruguay's Ancap had also issued a tender to buy crude, but the details were not immediately clear.