MARKET WATCHEnergy markets mixed as driving season approaches
Energy markets were mixed May 18, with traders still worried about gasoline supplies just a week before the unofficial start of the summer driving season in the US.
HOUSTON, May 21 -- Energy markets were mixed May 18, with traders still worried about gasoline supplies just a week before the unofficial start of the summer driving season in the US.
"The US refinery utilization rate is still the most powerful driver on the supply side," said analysts at Société Générale Group. They noted "not a single day [goes by] without news of a US refinery experiencing unexpected problems."
In the Houston office of Raymond James & Associates Inc., analysts noted that Valero Energy Corp.'s 295,000 b/d refinery in Port Arthur, Tex., had a compressor failure over the weekend that caused flaring at the facility. "The market's reaction to these refinery problems stems from the current tightness in gasoline supplies, with inventories at 7.5% below the 5-year average," they said.
Meanwhile, Société Générale analysts said, "The economic outlook is improving faster than expected in the US. May is traditionally a trendless month before June gives the tone for third quarter [market activity]. Temperatures won't be a driver until July and [the start of] a widely telegraphed 'active hurricane season' in the US."
The June contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes closed at $64.94/bbl May 18 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 8¢ for the day after touching $65.64/bbl in intraday trade—the highest level since May 1. The July contract gained 6¢ to $65.98/bbl.
On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate was up 8¢ to $64.95/bbl. The June contract for reformulated blend stock for oxygenate blending (RBOB) dropped 2.89¢ to$2.41/gal on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month lost 2.15¢ to $1.92/gal. The June natural gas contract fell by 13.1¢ to $7.94/MMbtu on NYMEX. It increased on the US spot market, however, up 18¢ to $7.89/MMbtu.
In London, the July IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude dropped 85¢ to $69.42/bbl. Gas oil for June increased by $3.25 to $602.25/tonne.
The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 11 benchmark crudes gained 74¢ to $65.88/bbl on May 18.
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