Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline surged to a five-week high on speculation repairs at the largest oil refinery in the U.S. and fires at plants in Europe will curtail supplies as demand picks up heading into the holiday season.
Motiva Enterprises LLC began work at its Port Arthur, Texas, plant, the country’s largest, on Nov. 19, according to Destin Singleton, a company spokeswoman based in Houston. Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Rotterdam refinery had a small fire today and a unit was shut at Total SA’s Antwerp plant after an explosion Nov. 19. Lower production and imports may further reduce stockpiles of gasoline, which fell to a one-year low last week.
"This is what’s moving RBOB up this morning," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates, a Galena, Illinois-based consulting company. "When you see a big refinery like that indicating some problems, you see values rise in futures and crack spreads."
Gasoline for December delivery gained 5.74 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $2.7204 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 12:23 p.m. and touched $2.7234, the highest intraday level since Oct. 16. Trading volume was 27 percent above the 100-day average for the time of day. Futures are down 3.3 percent in 2013.
Demand for the motor fuel in the four weeks ended Nov. 15 was 3.8 percent above a year earlier, Energy Information Administration data show. Pump prices, which sank to $3.179 a gallon on Nov. 11, may increase above $3.25, Michael Green, a Washington-based spokesman for AAA, the nation’s largest motoring group, said Nov. 19. Prices climbed 0.8 cent to $3.22 yesterday, according to Heathrow, Florida-based AAA.
Fuel consumption, traditionally lower after summer, may increase during the approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when Americans use their cars and trucks to shop and visit families.
"We’re now going into the holiday shopping season and demand picks up, which should halt any further decline at this point," said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc., an energy advisory company in Villanova, Pennsylvania.
Gasoline’s crack spread versus West Texas Intermediate oil, a rough measure of refining profitability widened 59 cents to $17.86 a barrel. The fuel’s premium to European benchmark Brent oil gained 75 cents to $3.81.
A fluid catalytic cracker was shut late yesterday at Motiva’s Port Arthur plant, according to a report today from Genscape Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky-based energy-information provider. One unit at Motiva’s 250,000-barrel-a-day Norco, Louisiana, refinery remains shut for a turnaround that began in early October, Singleton said by phone.