March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline futures advanced, reversing an earlier decline to the lowest level in almost three weeks. Crack spreads widened.
Prices gained 2.3 percent after falling to $3.0203 a gallon when the Energy Information Administration reported that refiners processed the most oil in two months in the seven days ended March 15. The April crack spread versus WTI widened $2.19 to $37.92 a barrel after touching $34.62 at 10:53 a.m. after the EIA report was released.
“We put in the bottom 20 minutes after the report. We have been rallying off of that,” Stephen Schork, the president of Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania, said by phone. “It might be you’ve got some people coming in and swooping in and buying up the cracks on that initial sell-off from the report.”
Gasoline for April delivery rose 7.12 cents to settle at $3.1163 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange on trading volume that was 21 percent above the 100-day average for the time of day. The May crack spread versus Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe increased $1.32 to $21.56 a barrel.
Imports to the East Coast declined for the first time in four weeks, sliding 51 percent to 354,000 barrels a day, the least since Nov. 2. Gasoline demand over the past four weeks, measured by deliveries to wholesalers, was 1.5 percent above a year ago.
Total U.S. gasoline inventories fell 1.48 million barrels to 222.8 million in the seven days ended March 15, the lowest level in three months. Supplies in the East Coast, or PADD 1, slipped 116,000 barrels to 59.8 million, a four-week low.
Refiners used 14.5 million barrels of crude oil last week, the most since the seven days ended Jan. 11, EIA data show.
“Refineries are coming out of maintenance and they need to produce more summer-grade gasoline,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil market strategist at Energy Aspects Ltd., a research company in London.
Supplies of distillates, including heating oil and diesel, fell 672,000 barrels to 119.8 million, the lowest level in three months, even as refiners increased output by 2.5 percent.
Heating oil for April delivery rose 2.8 cents, or 1 percent, to $2.8921 a gallon on volume that was 22 percent below the 100-day average for the time of day.
Gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, rose 0.5 cent to $3.697 a gallon, AAA said today on its website. Prices have dropped 8.9 cents since reaching a 2013 high of $3.786 on Feb. 26 and are 14.9 cents below a year ago.
--Editors: David Marino, Charlotte Porter