Gasoline Futures Advance as Fuel Demand Increases Before Holiday

May 21, 2014 4:02 pm ET

May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline rose in New York as demand increased before the start of peak driving season in the U.S. and West Texas Intermediate crude climbed to a one-month high.

Futures climbed 1 percent as WTI gained 1.7 percent. Demand for the motor fuel over the past four weeks grew to 8.94 million barrels a day, the highest level since November and up 5.3 percent from a year earlier. Memorial Day, which falls this year on May 26, marks the unofficial start of the summer driving season. The fuel’s crack spread to WTI dropped to a seven-week low.

“We’re going into a holiday weekend and demand should be high,” Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks & Opinions LLC in Houston, said in a telephone interview.

June-delivery gasoline rose 3.02 cents to settle at $2.9942 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gasoline’s crack spread versus WTI narrowed 52 cents to $21.06 a barrel based on July contracts. The premium to Brent climbed 36 cents to $14.58.

Supplies of the fuel nationwide rose 970,000 barrels last week to 213.4 million, according to EIA data. East Coast gasoline imports rose by 118,000 barrels a day to 979,000, the highest level since January 2012. The East Coast region includes New York Harbor, the delivery point for Nymex gasoline and diesel futures.

Bahamas Imports

Imports grew after Buckeye Partners LP’s Bahamas terminal received a March 6 ruling from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection allowing gasoline components to be shipped from the Gulf Coast to the Bahamas, blended into finished gasoline and sent to the East Coast on foreign-flagged tankers. A law known as the Jones Act requires that U.S.-made fuel be shipped between domestic ports on U.S.-flagged vessels.

The Jurkalne transported 158,000 barrels of fuel to East Coast ports after leaving the Bahamas last week, according to Customs data. The Valle Azzurra brought 190,000 barrels to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, on March 14 after leaving the Bahamas.

The average U.S. pump price was unchanged at $3.642 a gallon, according to data from Heathrow, Florida-based AAA. Prices are 1.2 cents below a year ago.

Distillate supplies grew by 3.4 million barrels to 116.3 million, the highest level since Jan. 17. Supplies on the East Coast rose by 744,000 barrels to 32.2 million.

Ultra low sulfur diesel for June delivery rose 0.41 cent, or 0.1 percent, to $2.9533 a gallon. The fuel’s crack spread versus West Texas Intermediate crude retreated $1.46 to $19.94 a barrel based on July contracts. The premium to Brent shrank 58 cents to $13.46.

--With assistance from Bert Gilbert in New York.