Bloomberg News

Gasoline Rises to Six-Month High as Refinery Outages Curb Supply

February 17, 2012

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline rose to a six-month high after unplanned outages at Gulf Coast refineries threatened to curb supplies at a time when production of the fuel typically increases in anticipation of the summer driving season.

Futures gained after Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Beaumont, Texas, refinery took a fluid catalytic cracker offline for repairs yesterday and Marathon Petroleum Corp. experienced a partial power failure at the Garyville, Louisiana, plant, resulting in malfunctions in several units. Sunoco Inc. plans to shut its Philadelphia plant by July.

“We have a number of refining outages on the Gulf Coast and there’s still some concern that Sunoco is going to shut the Philadelphia refinery and tighten supplies for the summer,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston, said by phone.

March-delivery gasoline rose 4.04 cents, or 1.3 percent, to settle at $3.0471 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest price since Aug. 2. Futures are up 13 percent this year.

Exxon expects some impact to production from the Beaumont outage, Kathleen Jackson, a company spokeswoman, said yesterday in an e-mail. Sunoco Inc. announced Sept. 6 that it may shut main process units at Philadelphia if no buyer is found.

Jobless Claims

Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped last week to the lowest level in four years, Labor Department figures showed today. Estimates for first-time claims decreased to 348,000, less than estimates that ranged from 350,000 to 380,000 in the Bloomberg survey of 45 economists.

Yesterday Iranian state-run Press TV reported that Iran halted crude oil shipments to Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands five months before a European Union embargo takes effect July 1.

“The market has been higher on a combination of fears over what’s going on with Iran and hope on what’s going on with the economy,” Peter Beutel, president of trading advisory company Cameron Hanover Inc. in New Canaan, Connecticut, said by phone.

U.S. gasoline demand last week was the lowest level for this time of year in weekly data since 2003, Energy Department data show. Consumption over the past four weeks was 6.4 percent below a year earlier.

“The loss of supply is definitely a big thing here but it’s a very strange thing because you have people buying this market and bidding the price up at a time when demand is absolutely horrific,” Beutel said.

Heating oil for March delivery gained 1.81 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $3.2097 a gallon on the exchange, the highest price since May 2. Futures have advanced 9.4 percent this year.

Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, rose 0.5 cent to $3.523 yesterday, according to AAA data. Prices have gained 7.5 percent this year.

--Editors: David Marino, Richard Stubbe

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Burkhardt in New York at pburkhardt@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net.


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