Saudi takes away a source of monthly dread

August 5, 2009

Every month the world’s leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia sets official selling prices for its crude. It is an event of major importance for physical oil traders — and, until very recently, of major dread for energy reporters.
For years, the Saudi prices were among the most difficult pieces of information to track down and relay in a timely and accurate fashion.
As if sensing that pain, Saudi state oil company Aramco in June started to issue the prices by email.
The relief for traders must also be considerable. They are no longer bombarded with the question “are the Saudi prices out yet?” and no longer saddled with the task of rattling out a long, complicated list of numbers, all too easy for a reporter to misreport.
Release by email should be more accurate, help to improve transparency in the oil market – and be smoother for all concerned.
Well, in theory. In July, Aramco emailed the August prices to Reuters correspondents in London, who were out of the office for the weekend, and not to those in Dubai, who were hard at work. The official release also omits a couple of the many prices — but perhaps Aramco takes the view reporters should be left with something to do.

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