FAR EAST OIL FLOWS TO US

FAR EAST OIL FLOWS TO US

Producers of light crude in the Far East continue to target the United States for exports as demand in the region dwindles, traders said.

A U.S. independent refiner bought 500,000 barrels each of Malaysian Tapis and Labuan for shipment to the U.S. West Coast. The cargoes will be loaded for export in June.Meanwhile, a 650,000-barrel cargo of Australian Gippsland crude loading in late May has been sold to a U.S. refiner in Puerto Rico, a trader in Melbourne said.

The price difference between Tapis and West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark grade, was wide enough Friday and Monday to make trans-Pacific shipment profitable, traders said.

Last week, Tapis was quoted at about $17.20 a barrel, Gippsland was about $16.65, both f.o.b. source, and West Texas Intermediate spot cash market prices were quoted at about $19.25.

June light crude prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange have dropped fairly steadily since the beginning of May. Monday's close was $18.26 a barrel, down 47 cents for the day and 55 cents from May 1.

As New York prices drop, Far East prices have to follow to stay attractive for U.S. refiners.

Japanese and South Korean demand for light Far Eastern crudes will be minimal in June despite strong kerosene prices, refiners in Tokyo and Seoul said. Malaysian and Australian crudes yield large amounts of kerosene.

Regional demand for light Far East oil should pick up again in July as Japanese refiners start building kerosene stocks for the winter, refining industry sources in Tokyo said.