Retail gasoline in the U.S. rose above year-earlier levels for the first time since April, led by a surge of 19 cents-a-gallon on the West Coast following a fire at Northern California’s largest oil refinery.
The national average price for regular gasoline rose 7.6 cents to $3.721 a gallon in the week ending Aug. 13, up from $3.604 a year ago, the Energy Information Administration said in report yesterday. That’s the highest level for this week since 2008. West Coast gasoline gained the most, increasing to $3.948 after an Aug. 6 blaze forced Chevron Corp. (CVX)’s Richmond plant to cut fuel output.
U.S. retail gasoline has climbed for six straight weeks, advancing 36.5 cents a gallon since July 2, as crude prices have risen more than $15 a barrel from this year’s low and on the refinery disruption. Gasoline inventories in the U.S. are at the lowest for this time in five years. Enbridge Inc. (ENB) on Aug. 8 started its Line 14 pipe, which delivers Canadian crude to plants in the U.S. Midwest, after shutting it for almost two weeks because of a leak.
“You’ve got low gasoline inventories, California having refinery problems and the residual effect of the lack of crude oil coming from Canada due to the pipeline rupture,” James Williams, president of WTRG Economics in New London, Arkansas, said by telephone yesterday. “That explains it all.”
Prices increased the least last week in the Midwest, where regular gasoline climbed 1.6 cents to $3.788 a gallon, the agency’s report showed.
Oil for September delivery traded today as high as $93 a barrel, up 0.3 percent, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures yesterday climbed 14 cents, or 0.2 percent, to settle at $92.73 a barrel as U.S. equities moved lower and Japan’s economy grew more slowly than expected.
Nymex gasoline futures rose as much as 1.08 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $3.0015 a gallon today. Prices dropped 1.32 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $2.9907 yesterday on speculation that fuel supplies will increase in the Midwest and maintenance at California refineries may be delayed to take advantage of increased profit margins following the fire in Richmond.
Motor-gasoline inventories fell 1.8 million barrels, or 0.9 percent, to 206.1 million in the week ended Aug. 3, the Energy Department said Aug. 8. Stockpiles of the fuel probably declined another 2.13 million barrels, or 1 percent, to 203.9 million last week, a Bloomberg survey of six analysts showed.
Crude-oil supplies slipped 3.73 million barrels, or 1 percent, to 369.9 million in the week ended Aug. 3, the agency said. They probably fell another 1.75 million barrels, or 0.5 percent, to 368.1 million, according to the median of analysts’ estimates.
Average U.S. gasoline demand for the four weeks ended Aug. 3 fell 4.2 percent from a year earlier to 8.74 million barrels a day, the Energy Department data showed.
The Energy Department conducts a telephone survey of about 800 retail gasoline outlets across the U.S. each Monday to post weekly gasoline prices as of 8 a.m. local time that day.
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