Oil Rises, Gasoline Higher On Refinery Outages


Oil prices rose and gasoline futures hit a three-month high on Friday, fueled by spread trading and supply concerns.

A string of glitches at U.S. refineries and strikes at four Total refineries in France lifted U.S. RBOB gasoline futures 1.5 percent, and they touched the highest level since early September.

"We have strong demand going into the holiday. We're expecting record holiday travel, so we're going to use more gasoline," said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Further support came as data showed the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in almost two years in the third quarter, signaling potentially stronger fuel demand.

Gains in international benchmark Brent crude outpaced those in U.S. oil futures. Market players said the narrowing in Brent's premium to U.S. crude to $10 a barrel earlier this week had been overdone.

"The strength in Brent is tied toward pushing that spread out," said Addison Armstrong, director of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

Brent crude gained $1.48 to settle at $111.77 a barrel. The crack, or difference, between Brent crude oil futures and gasoline widened to a more than three-month high of $5.70 per barrel.

U.S. oil settled up 28 cents at $99.32 a barrel.

Speculators added bullish bets to their U.S. crude futures and options positions in the week to Dec. 17, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Friday.

Brent prices were also underpinned by continuing disruption in Libya, where crude exports have dropped to 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) from more than 1 million bpd in July.

The OPEC producer is stepping up fuel imports as a mix of militias, tribesmen and civil servants demanding political rights, or a greater share of Libya's oil wealth, have occupied several oilfields and ports.

Violence in South Sudan threatened to disrupt oil production in the two-year-old nation as fighting reached vital oilfields.

China National Petroleum Co, a leading oil investor in South Sudan, said on Friday it was evacuating oil workers from its oilfields to the capital, Juba.

(Additional reporting by Joshua Franklin in London, Manash Goswami and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Dale Hudson, Peter Galloway, John Wallace and Bob Burgdorfer)

Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.


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