Gasoline Falls With Seasonal Maintenance Peak Seen Past

Mar 31, 2014 4:19 pm ET

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline futures fell after the projected peak of seasonal maintenance for fuel producers.

Prices sank 0.9 percent as the April contract expired. Plant repairs were forecast to peak in March with 1.8 million barrels a day offline, equal to 10 percent of U.S. capacity, according to data from CIBC World Markets Inc. The Energy Information Administration said refinery inputs gained in the week ended March 21, including an increase of 239,000 barrels a day in PADD 3, the Gulf Coast.

“The products are a bit under pressure with an expectation that as refiners return from maintenance we’ll have more supply available,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston.

April-delivery gasoline dropped 2.65 cents to settle at $2.911 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Volume was 11 percent above the 100-day average as of 3:26 p.m.

“This is the first summer-grade gasoline delivery, and it’s weak, bearish looking forward,” said Andrew Lebow, a senior vice president at Jefferies Bache LLC in New York. “The market is clearly a little bit too long.”

Gasoline gained 4.3 percent in March, the second consecutive monthly advance, and 4.5 percent for the quarter, also the second consecutive increase.

Crack Spreads

The motor fuel’s crack spread versus West Texas Intermediate narrowed 81 cents to $20.68 a barrel. The premium to Brent was down 51 cents to $14.50 a barrel.

The average U.S. pump price rose 1.4 cents to $3.56 a gallon, the highest level since September, according to data from Heathrow, Florida-based AAA. Drivers are paying 7.9 cents less than a year ago.

Ultra low sulfur diesel declined 2.59 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $2.932 a gallon on volume that was 37 percent below the 100-day average.

Diesel fell 5.1 percent for the month, the second straight decline, and 4.7 percent for the quarter, the first drop since June, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The fuel’s crack spread versus West Texas Intermediate crude narrowed 63 cents to $21.56 a barrel. The premium over European benchmark Brent fell 38 cents to $15.38.