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SINGAPORE: Asia’s gasoline cracks dipped on Friday as traders remain concerned near-term demand would take a hit if governments reimpose wider mobility curbs to contain the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Refining profit margins, also known as cracks, for gasoline slipped to $8.28 per barrel on Friday, compared with $8.79 per barrel a day earlier.

The gasoline cracks, however, have gained nearly 13% this week, their steepest weekly rise since Oct. 22, buoyed by the recent weakness in raw material crude’s prices. Asia’s naphtha crack was at $140.98 per tonne on Friday, down from $146.18 a tonne on Thursday. The naphtha crack, which has shed about 18% in the last month, is expected to find support from tighter supplies and steady petrochemicals demand in the near term, market watchers said.

Gasoline stocks held independently in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) refining and storage hub rose 1.1% to 846,000 tonnes in the week to Dec. 2, data from Dutch consultancy Insights Global showed.

The gasoline inventories were higher as exports to the United States slowed, while there was a rare vessel sail to China, the consultancy said.

ARA naphtha inventories rose 6.9% to 263,000 tonnes as higher freight rates weighed on demand.

OPEC and its allies agreed on Thursday to stick to their existing policy of monthly oil output increases despite fears that a US release from crude reserves and the new Omicron coronavirus variant would lead to a fresh oil price rout.

The US administration plans to propose in days the amount of biofuels oil refiners must blend into their fuel mix this year and next year, as it reaches out to lawmakers to discuss the move, three sources familiar with the matter said.

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