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Gasoline Drops on Slower China Growth, Europe Debt Crisis

Gasoline slid a second day on concern that global fuel demand will fall after China’s industrial growth slowed and Greece struggled to form a new government.

Futures declined as much as 1.1 percent as China’s factory production grew the least since 2009 in April. The risk of a Greek exit from the euro area mounted this week after May 6 elections saw anti-bailout parties surge in popularity.

“Weaker economic data out of China has contributed to pressure on product prices,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston. “Concern over the Greek elections continues to provide uncertainty about the resolution of their debt crisis and how that will impact demand throughout other portions of Europe.”

Gasoline for June delivery fell 0.94 cent, or 0.3 percent, to settle at $3.0008 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gasoline has lost 12 percent since reaching a 2012 high of $3.4166 on March 26. The fuel has pared its year-to-date gain to 12 percent from 27 percent.

Chinese factory output increased 9.3 percent in April from a year earlier, the biggest negative surprise against forecasts in two years, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Consumer prices rose 3.4 percent from a year earlier, staying below the government’s annual goal for the third month.

“Signs of China slowing continue and the problems with Europe don’t go away,” Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

Greece’s Struggles

Efforts to form a government in Greece, Europe’s most indebted nation, have so far failed. Greece’s fiscal deficit is projected to increase next year if a new government does not pass additional budget cuts in the coming months.

Europe’s banks are ready for the possibility of a Greek departure from the euro, European Banking Federation President Christian Clausen said.

Futures touched a low of $2.9759 before paring losses and finishing the week up 0.8 percent after a report that U.S. consumer confidence rose in May to the highest level in four years as gasoline prices at the pump continue to decline.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment climbed to 77.8, the highest since January 2008, from 76.4 the prior month. The gauge was projected to drop to 76, according to the median forecast of 68 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

“If there’s any bright spot, the U.S. economy is teetering along here, and people are looking for demand to pick up here,” said Fred Rigolini, vice president of Paramount Options Inc. in New York. “The price of gasoline going down is going to be a big boost to consumer sentiment.”

Pump Prices

Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, fell 0.5 cent to $3.734 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA. That’s the lowest level since Feb. 28. Prices are down 20.2 cents since reaching a 2012 high of $3.936 on April 4. Gasoline peaked in 2011 at $3.985 on May 4.

June-delivery heating oil declined 1.98 cents, or 0.7 percent, to settle at $2.9636 a gallon on the exchange, the lowest settlement since Dec. 30. Futures fell 1.5 percent this week following a 5.4 percent loss the prior week. It’s the biggest two-week slide since Nov. 25.

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