California Gasoline Gains on March Trading, Low Supply

Spot gasoline in California strengthened against futures after the prompt-month contract rolled into March and a government report showed West Coast inventories fell.

Stockpiles on the West Coast, known as the PADD 5 region, dropped for the second week in a row, trimming 723,000 barrels to 33 million in the period ended Feb. 15, the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, said today.

California-blend gasoline, or Carbob, in Los Angeles was at a premium of 10 cents a gallon against April gasoline futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 4:06 p.m. East Coast time. Before today, the fuel traded against March futures, closing yesterday at a 29.50-cents-a-gallon premium.

The average retail price for regular gasoline in California rose to $4.203 a gallon, up 11.6 cents from a week before, AAA Southern California reported.

“Prices have now gone up even more than they did during the spike in October and the one last February, and more quickly than they did during any one-month stretch in 2008, when we had another big spike,” Jeffrey Spring, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, based in Costa Mesa, said by e-mail. “Los Angeles drivers are now paying nearly as much as drivers on Maui for regular unleaded, which is unprecedented.”

San Francisco

The discount for Carbob in San Francisco, which also rolled into March, traded at a discount of 9 cents a gallon against April futures, compared with a 6.5 cent premium yesterday against March futures.

The premium for California-blend, or CARB, diesel in Los Angeles widened 75 cents to 14 cents a gallon versus Nymex heating oil futures.

In Portland, Oregon, conventional 84 sub-octane gasoline to be blended with ethanol traded at a 9-cent premium to gasoline futures.

Californians “should expect to see a rise up to the summer driving season, perhaps reaching $4.50 a gallon,” Ryan Mossman, vice president and general manager of Fuel Center at FuelQuest in Houston, said by e-mail. “Prices should then taper off toward the end of the year.”

(Corrects title of Ryan Mossman in last paragraph.)
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