The Middle East crude market maintained its strength on Thursday, with values for the benchmark Murban crude pegged higher than levels seen in the previous session, traders said. Abu Dhabi’s Murban was valued at a premium of 10-14 cents a barrel, about 2-4 cents over values seen on Wednesday, traders said. Physical transactions were thin, as traders turned their focus towards the next round of official selling prices from Middle East producers. Only one deal for April-loading Murban was done this week at 10 cents a barrel, traders said. Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, was expected to lift prices for its flagship Arab Light crude due to a strengthening Dubai backwardation, traders said. However, as product cracks for distillates remained weak, any attempt to adjust prices higher would be limited. Saudi Aramco is due to release its official selling prices for May by March 5. SK Energy sold 10 Dubai partials to Shell and Vitol at $119.90-$120.00 a barrel. Oil consuming nations have no need to release stockpiles as they do not face a supply crunch, EU officials and the agency for consumers said on Wednesday after Washington announced it may use stocks to stem soaring gasoline prices in an election year.