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EghtesadOnline: Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, raised pricing for July sales of all crude grades to Asia, the U.S. and Northwest Europe as it seeks to take advantage of increased demand after suppliers extended production cuts to help curb a global glut.

State-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, increased official pricing for Arab Light crude to Asia by 60 cents, to 25 cents a barrel less than the regional benchmark, it said Sunday in an emailed statement. The company had been expected to increase the grade’s pricing by 30 cents a barrel for buyers in its largest market, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of five refiners and traders. Aramco boosted pricing due to higher demand and better profits for refiners in the region, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

“This is an indication that the Saudis see market conditions improving across the board,” said Robin Mills, head of Dubai-based consultancy Qamar Energy. “Demand is generally weaker in the first-quarter and picks up in summer.”

Defending Sales

Saudi Aramco had cut Arab Light pricing to Asia for the past three months as the kingdom fought to defend sales. It had ceded market share to OPEC rivals Iran and Iraq by making deeper cuts in output than it promised under the group’s agreement to curb production.

Middle Eastern producers also compete with cargoes from Latin America, North Africa and Russia for buyers in Asia. Producers in the Persian Gulf region sell mostly under long-term contracts to refiners and most of the Gulf’s state oil companies price their crude at a premium or discount to a benchmark. For Asia the benchmark is the average of Oman and Dubai oil grades.

U.S. pricing by Aramco has increased for three consecutive months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Saudi Arabia plans to “markedly” reduce exports to the U.S. in the next few weeks in an effort to reduce crude inventories in the world’s biggest consumer. “Exports to the U.S. will drop measurably,” Al-Falih told reporters in Vienna after the OPEC agreement on May 25.

The July pricing doesn’t provide “any evidence of that strategy” given that Aramco raised pricing across several markets, Mills said. Saudi crude is needed by refiners in the Gulf of Mexico for blending with lighter shale oil produced in the U.S., he said.

Aramco Oil Glut Saudi oil