Heating oil fell, reversing an earlier gain, and gasoline increased losses as workers at an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Belgium postponed a strike and on concern that the Europe debt crisis may curb fuel demand.
Futures sank as Exxon delayed shutting its Antwerp refinery after labor unions suspended a planned strike “until a proposal by management has been put up for referendum,” Johan Scharpe, a company spokesman based in Antwerp, said by phone today. Bill Gross, manager of the world’s largest mutual fund, said Europe poses the biggest risk to the U.S. economy.
“Shutting that refinery could have been bullish for products,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston.
December-delivery heating oil fell 2.84 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $3.0548 a gallon at 12:30 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are heading for a 3.7 percent drop this week.
“The market has concerns how events in Europe are going to play out,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “The market still expects the U.S. economy to improve.”
Futures rose as high as $3.1284 earlier as analysts increased U.S. growth outlooks for the fourth quarter and a report signaled the world’s largest economy will continue to grow in 2012.
Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. now see the U.S. GDP rising 3 percent in the fourth quarter, up from a previous prediction of 2.5 percent. Macroeconomic Advisers increased its forecast to 3.2 percent from 2.9 percent at the start of November, while Morgan Stanley & Co. boosted its outlook to 3.5 percent from 3 percent.
The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months rose 0.9 percent, the most since February, after a 0.1 percent September gain. The median forecast of 56 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected the gauge would advance 0.6 percent.
“Everything coming out the last few weeks about the U.S. is beating expectations,” said Dominick Chirichella, senior partner at the Energy Management Institute in New York. “The sentiment about Europe is still negative and the market is not comfortable with even a little progress there.”
Gasoline for December delivery fell 3.61 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $2.471 a gallon. Prices touched $2.455, the lowest intraday level since Feb. 8.
Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, sank 0.9 cent to $3.384 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA data.
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