In late 2009, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (ICE), based in London, announced the introduction of two cash-settled futures contracts based on the Argus Sour Crude Index (ASCI) and cleared by ICE Clear Europe. ICE is a leading operator of global regulated futures exchanges, clearing houses and over-the-counter markets. Argus Media launched its ASCI in May to represent the daily value of U.S. Gulf Coast medium-sour crude based on physical spot market transactions. The daily ASCI price is the volume-weighted average of all transactions for three grades of Gulf Coast crude combined: Mars, Poseidon and Southern Green Canyon. ICE and New York-based NYMEX CME Group began trading futures contracts for the Argus-based sour crudes on December 7, 2009. The announcement supports a growing contention that West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices, which have historically been a major benchmark for traders, may be losing dominance. WTI prices are strongly influenced by the strength of the U.S. dollar. The new futures contracts are the ICE Argus Sour Crude Index Future, which is an outright contract, and the ICE Argus Sour Crude Index Differential Future, which is the differential between the ASCI and the WTI price. The futures contracts will be listed by ICE Futures Europe. Evidence of the popularity of the new pricing trend can be found in the recent decision by national oil company Saudi Aramco to adopt the Argus Sour Crude Index as the new benchmark for all grades of crude oil sold to U.S. customers. Ralph Glass, economist and vice president of operations for Calgary-based AJM Petroleum, calls the decision by Saudi Aramco to drop the WTI benchmark in favor of the ASCI a harbinger of change. “Mexico's Pemex has indicated it is studying the possibility of moving to the ASCI benchmark,” wrote Glass in a recent forecast. “Venezuela has also shown signs it will consider moving to the new index. Rest assured, our future will be shaped by oil-consuming nations other than the United States." David Peniket, president and chief operating officer of ICE Futures Europe, believes the availability of a U.S. Gulf Coast benchmark ASCI, together with the exchange’s ICE WTI and Brent crude contracts will enhance the ability of its customers to effectively manage price risk in the global energy markets.