Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, raised September crude oil prices for Asian buyers to record high levels despite falling refining margins.
The official selling price (OSP) for September-loading Arab Light to Asia was raised by 50 cents a barrel from August to $9.80 a barrel over Oman/Dubai quotes, people familiar with the matter said, leapfrogging the previous record of $9.35 per barrel set in May.
The price hike was lower than market forecasts of 70 cents to $1 a barrel.
"Now all crude grades are getting cheaper, so Saudi needs to make its prices competitive. Otherwise traders will take spot cargoes (rather) than lift Saudi oil," said a Singapore-based trader.
The spread between Brent and Dubai narrowed to $6.55 a barrel on Thursday, a level last seen in late April, making Brent-linked grades more attractive to Asian buyers and putting pressure on regional grades.
Profit margins at Asian refiners who process Dubai crude plunged by as much as 96% in July, pressured by the prospect of a global economic recession and weakening fuel demand.
Refiners have concerned that a further hike in crude oil prices could prompt refineries to trim output to manage their balance sheets.
The OSP for Arab Extra Light was increased by 30 cents to $10.95 a barrel, and for Arab Medium by 60 cents to $7.75 a barrel, both record levels.
Saudi's OSPs also came after OPEC+ agreed to raise its oil output goal by 100,000 barrels per day from September, although the market saw the increase as too small to have any meaningful impact on the supply.