Oil Rises Most in a Month on Fuel Supply Concern

Crude rose the most in a month on forecasts that U.S. gasoline supplies dropped after Hurricane Sandy forced the shutdown of East Coast refineries and as Americans went to the polls to pick a president.

Futures climbed to a two-week high after a Bloomberg survey showed supplies of the motor fuel probably decreased 1.5 million barrels last week. Hess Corp. and Phillips 66’s New Jersey refineries remained shut after Sandy. U.S. voters decide today whether to return Barack Obama, a Democrat, as president or elect his challenger, Mitt Romney, a Republican.

“Clearly there is a short-term shortage of gasoline on the East Coast because of the closure of refineries, terminals and pipelines,” said Julius Walker, global energy markets strategist at UBS Securities LLC in New York. “These problems should be short-lived. In the oil market, you also have some sentiment about the election affecting trading.”

Crude oil for December delivery advanced $3.06, or 3.6 percent, to $88.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the biggest gain since Oct. 4 and the highest settlement since Oct. 22. Prices are down 10 percent this year.

Prices were little changed after the American Petroleum Institute reported U.S. oil inventories slid 27,000 barrels to 371.7 million last week. Gasoline stockpiles gained 1.38 million to 201 million barrels. December oil advanced $2.75, or 3.2 percent, to $88.40 a barrel at 4:44 p.m. in electronic trading.

Brent oil for December settlement increased $3.34, or 3.1 percent, to end the session at $111.07 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Gasoline supply may have dropped to 198 million barrels in the seven days ended Nov. 2, according to the survey. That would be the first decline in four weeks.

The Energy Department is scheduled to release its inventory report at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in Washington.

Fuel Inventories

Stockpiles of gasoline fell to 195.4 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 5, the lowest level since October 2008, according to Energy Department data. Inventories were at 199.5 million in the week ended Oct. 26.

“There is fear that until things are back to normal we might have some tight supply and the market is keeping an eye on it,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “There is still some uncertainty about the result of the election. People are waiting to see who is going to win.”

Crude inventories probably rose 2 million barrels to 375.1 million barrels last week, according to the Bloomberg survey.

Gasoline futures for December delivery advanced 7.87 cents, or 3 percent, to $2.6989 a gallon on the Nymex. They pared gains after the API report, increasing 7.12 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $2.6914 a gallon.

Refinery Outages

Phillips plans to resume normal operations at the 238,000-barrel-a-day Bayway plant in two to three weeks after repairing equipment damaged by Sandy, the Houston-based company said yesterday in a statement on its website.

Hess said yesterday it has partially restored power at the 70,000-barrel-a-day Port Reading refinery. Full power is needed to complete an assessment, the company said.

“Gasoline supply is going to be tight in the next couple of days,” said Chris Barber, a senior analyst at Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “It’s a short-term thing.”

About 76 percent of gas stations in the New York metropolitan area had gasoline yesterday, up from 73 percent on Nov. 4, according to an Energy Department survey.

Sandy, the biggest Atlantic storm in history, prompted six refineries with a capacity of 1.17 million barrels a day to shut or operate at reduced rates, the department said. Four refineries in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey have returned to operation.

U.S. Election

The next president will need to address a so-called fiscal cliff of more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that take effect in 2013 unless Congress can reach a budget compromise.

U.S. oil production has jumped 36 percent since January 2009 on rising output from shale formations in states including North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma. Total output rose to 6.67 million barrels a day in the week ended Oct. 26, the most since 1995, according to the Energy Department.

“Whether Romney is president or Obama, the shale play is still producing a lot of oil,” Barber said. “Production is not the issue.”

Output will average 6.85 million barrels a day next year, up 8.2 percent from this year, the Energy Department said in the monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook report today. It was forecast to reach 6.33 million this year, 12 percent more than 2011.

Electronic trading volume on the Nymex was 520,834 contracts as of 4:34 p.m. Volume totaled 477,577 contracts yesterday, 8.2 percent below the three-month average. Open interest was 1.61 million.

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