The European gasoline market will be split between Petroleum Argus and Platts price quotes for the rest of the year, only switching fully to Argus assessments next year, traders said yesterday.

They said most forward paper and Eurograde barge trade is against Argus quotes after a switch away from benchmark oil pricer Platts started in June, though regular grade barges and Mediterranean cargoes would continue to use Platts assessments.

This means European fuel retailers are likely to continue basing pump prices on Platts quotes while market traders will be lumbered with using differing pricing assessments depending on the contract, grade or region.

"Premium barges will be on Argus but Platts may keep regular grade — people still have some exposure to Platts but as that gets moved over it will get less important," said a leading gasoline broker.

Brokers and dealers at several oil majors, banks and key trading houses have been pushing for a full switch to Argus pricing after an unpopular April change in Platts' methodology to weight its assessment towards deals in a 1700-1730 London market-on-close (MOC) time window.

But much of the trade on regular grade gasoline is linked to hefty European exports to Nigeria, which tendered this month to buy the motor fuel until the first quarter 2004 priced off the Platts Rotterdam regular barge quote.

"I think that will be the only thing that keeps Platts going on gasoline," said a trader at a major. Traders are now assessing the differential between Argus prices in northwest Europe and Platts prices in the Mediterranean, where many Nigerian-bound cargoes originate.

Industry sources said gasoline's lead could be a precursor to a switch across the entire European oil products spectrum, though so far Platts is still the benchmark for most fuels.

However, Shell switched its term deals for gas oil barges to Argus earlier this month while the International Air Transport Association will discuss different pricing options for jet fuel contracts at a meeting next month in Montreal.

Meanwhile BP and Total did a landmark wet Brent crude deal this week priced off Argus, which traders said could be repeated as crude traders increasingly consider alternatives to Platts.

Gasoline traders said the Platts switch to the MOC hit intra-day liquidity as most barge trade moved to the end of the day, reducing their ability to wheel and deal, while the window came too late for many continental players.

They say that since the switch to using Argus quotes they have been given a better indication of early gasoline levels with trade throughout the day on Eurograde 10ppm barges.

They said this had also given a boost to paper liquidity further out.