Sunday, December 17, 2017
Business

Amid plant shutdowns, gasoline prices hit seasonal record

SAN FRANCISCO — Retail gasoline prices have risen to a record for this time of year amid a decline in refinery production because of breakdowns and seasonal maintenance and an eight-week rally in crude futures.

Regular gasoline in the U.S. climbed 7.3 cents, or 2.1 percent, from a week earlier to $3.611 a gallon Monday, the highest level since Oct. 22 and a record for this time of year, according to data compiled by the federal Energy Information Administration. West Texas Intermediate oil futures have gained more than $10 a barrel since mid December and on Feb. 1 capped the longest stretch of weekly advances in more than eight years.

According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Florida was $3.651 on Tuesday. In the Tampa Bay area, the average was $3.609.

Retail gasoline has also climbed for eight straight weeks as refiners make up for the rise in crude costs. Gasoline production in the United States is at a three-week low as plants including Chevron's El Segundo refinery near Los Angeles and LyondellBasell Industries' Houston site in Texas perform maintenance turnarounds.

"Pick a coast, and we have refineries down, and then you had the price of crude soar," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Prices Futures Group in Chicago. "Supplies are more than ample right now, and it seems crude prices should continue to work lower. That, and refineries coming off maintenance, should start to bring down gasoline."

Crude stockpiles in the U.S. increased 0.7 percent to 371.7 million barrels in the seven days ended Feb. 1, the EIA said Feb. 6. They probably added 2.2 million barrels last week, according to the median of 10 analyst estimates before the agency's next report today.

Output of the motor fuel dropped 3.3 percent from the week before to 8.76 million barrels a day in the period ended Feb. 1, the lowest level since Jan. 11. Consumption increased 1.2 percent to 8.42 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Feb. 1, the EIA said.

Retail gasoline prices rose Monday in all five regions of the U.S., the agency said. The Rocky Mountain area saw the biggest gain, of 13 cents, to $3.274 a gallon.

Regular gasoline on the U.S. West Coast rose 12.9 cents Monday to $3.867 a gallon, the highest average price in the U.S.

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