Middle East oil prices for Asian buyers are starting to look too high as a series of bearish indicators start to come into play. While none of the factors are enough by themselves to cause prices to drop, taken together they present a backdrop that should lead to weakness for regional benchmarks such as the Oman futures traded on the Dubai Mercantile Exchange . Front-month Oman has weakened 4.5 per cent since the start of the year, to close at $103.69 a barrel, but this level is actually up from the $102.60 it reached earlier. Perhaps the resilience of the contract can be put down to the view that the full impact of the bearish factors has yet to be felt. These include the relatively mild winter in major Asian consumers such as China and Japan , the coming refinery maintenance season in the second quarter, the possibility of the return of Iranian barrels to the market coupled with rising Iraqi output, and soft demand growth in top importer China .
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