U.S. Gasoline Rises as Isaac Shuts Plants, Lundberg Says

Gasoline at U.S. pumps increased during the past two weeks as Hurricane Isaac shut refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. filling stations rose 7.85 cents in the past two weeks to $3.8376 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The survey covers the two weeks ended Sept. 7 and is based on information received from about 2,500 stations by the Camarillo, California-based company. The average is up 17 cents from a year earlier. Gasoline is 13 cents below the year-to-date high of $3.9671 on April 6.

“Hurricane Isaac was the biggest individual contributor to the price increase,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “The storm caused refinery closures and partial closures.”

Gasoline futures on the Nymex fell 5.84 cents, or 1.9 percent, in the two weeks ended Sept. 7 to $3.0196, after the September contract expired Aug. 31 at a 13.28-cent premium to October. Prices are up 18 percent from the year-to-date low of $2.5501 on June 21.

October-delivery gasoline increased 3.8 percent during the period as Isaac shut seven plants, representing 13 percent of Gulf Coast fuel-making capacity, and forced four others to reduce operating rates.

Gasoline stockpiles declined 2.33 million barrels in the week ended Aug. 31 to 198.9 million, the lowest level since November 2008, Energy Department data showed Sept. 6.

Oil Rises

Prices at the pump also rose as West Texas Intermediate crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange advanced 27 cents, or 0.3 percent, in two weeks to $96.42 a barrel on Sept. 7. Futures have increased 24 percent since June 28, when they fell to a year-to-date low of $77.69.

Crude oil has climbed on speculation that the Federal Reserve will move to boost stimulus efforts to offset a faltering recovery. The Federal Open Market Committee will meet Sept. 12-13 to discuss monetary policy.

The Labor Department reported on Sept. 7 an increase of 96,000 jobs in August, following a revised 141,000 rise in July that was smaller than initially estimated. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent as 368,000 Americans left the labor force.

Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Bill Gross said the report will move the Fed closer to more quantitative easing. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in an Aug. 31 speech in Jackson, Hole, Wyoming, that the central bank may need to do more to boost economic growth.

Refineries Return

Any increase in gasoline prices in the coming weeks may be modest as refinery operations return to normal after Isaac, Lundberg said.

All of the refineries that were forced to shut have restarted, the plants’ operators said last week.

Oil may decline this week on speculation that U.S. Gulf of Mexico crude output will resume after Isaac, a Bloomberg survey showed.

About 13 percent of oil production from the Gulf of Mexico remained shut today, down from 95 percent on Aug. 31, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Sixteen of 31 analysts, or 52 percent, forecast crude will decrease through Sept. 14. Nine respondents, or 29 percent, predicted that futures will gain and six said there will be little change in prices. Last week, 59 percent of analysts projected a drop.

Regular gasoline on Long Island averaged $4.04 a gallon, according to Lundberg. Los Angeles-area retail stations averaged $4.14.

The highest price in the lower 48 U.S. states among the markets surveyed was in Chicago, where the average was $4.30 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in El Paso, Texas, where customers paid an average of $3.44 a gallon.

To contact the reporters on this story: Barbara J Powell in Dallas at bpowell4@bloomberg.net; Christine Buurma in New York at cbuurma1@bloomberg.net

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

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