Gasoline barge prices in northwest Europe rose on Friday, boosted by brisk cargo exports as demand builds ahead of the peak summer driving season.
"Things are perking up," said one trader.
"Big slugs of reformate are heading to Asia again. There is good demand in the east still. West Africa blends are still taking place... Latin America is importing quite a bit in general."
Reuters shipping data showed a flurry of new vessels booked to carry gasoline or its components, which include reformates.
Cargill booked a tanker to carry gasoline across the Atlantic and Valero booked another for the east coast of Canada, the data showed. BP fixed two vessels to carry gasoline to West Africa and PMI fixed three tankers to Mexico.
The fixtures come as gasoline stocks independently held at the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp hub fell by 5 percent this week to 1.078 million tonnes, according to data from Pieter Kulsen. The Dutch oil consultant attributed the draw to increased demand with the switch to summer blends of gasoline this month.
Cargoes had already departed to the United States and West Africa during the week.
Wednesday's weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration was also bullish; gasoline stocks on the U.S. East Coast, a major export market for European gasoline, fell by 2 million barrels.
In the European barge market, low water levels prevented vessels from sailing fully loaded on the Rhine and Danube rivers in Germany, increasing transport costs for cargo owners, traders said. The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities including oil products.
Naphtha received some support from Asia, where there is demand for European cargoes due to refinery maintenance, traders said.
The East-West arbitrage is considered open at around $15 a tonne for May and $16 a tonne for June, but traders in Asia said on Friday they were not expecting enough cargoes to arrive.
About 900,000 to 1 million tonnes of European/Mediterranean naphtha are expected to arrive in Asia in May, similar to March volumes which were at a five-month low, they said. A record 1.7 million tonnes arrived in Asia in January.
Gunvor sold one barge of benchmark Eurobob to Total in the Platts price assessment window at $986 a tonne fob ARA.
Outside the window, gasoline traded at $979-$988 a tonne fob ARA, up from at $966-$972 a tonne on Thursday.
By the market close, the May swap was trading at around $986 a tonne, up from $970.50 a tonne on Thursday.
Two barges of premium unleaded gasoline traded at $1,000-$1,002 a tonne fob ARA, up from $982-$985 a tonne on Thursday. Argos sold to Vitol and Litasco to Total.
By 1715 GMT, Eurobob's crack to dated Brent was at $10.744 a barrel, up from around $10.10 a barrel on Thursday.
Brent crude oil futures were up 49 cents at $106.64 a barrel at 1707 GMT.
U.S. RBOB gasoline futures in New York were up 0.63 percent at $2.9300 a gallon, and the prompt crack was firmer at $21.99 a barrel.
Two cargoes of naphtha traded on Friday. Vitol sold a cargo to Gunvor at $920.50 a tonne cif NWE. Noble sold to Total at $921 a tonne cif NWE. That compared to a price of about $910 a tonne on Thursday.
The naphtha prompt crack was a little stronger at around minus $3.18 a barrel, compared to minus $3.55 a barrel on Thursday.
(Editing by David Evans)