Good times ahead in 2003 for US refining

That seems to be the growing consensus among analysts and other market observers. While high crude prices have kept a squeeze on margins of late, the stage is being set for a robust recovery for refiners in the spring.Merrill Lynch recently noted that fourth quarter 2002 was the first quarter in over a year that consensus estimates for refining earnings were moving up instead of down. "We believe that the group (of US refiners it tracks) is entering a new phase of positive (earnings per share) surprises, similar to the environment of 2000 and 2001," Merrill Lynch analysts said in a December research note.Strengthening fundamentalsThere are a number of fundamental reasons why the outlook f...

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