(Bloomberg) -- Gasoline futures are at the highest premium to crude for this time of year since 2013 as refiners struggle to build supply ahead of summer.
The Nymex gasoline contract is trading at around $18.50 a barrel above crude, the biggest premium for this time of year since 2013. U.S. Gulf Coast refiners are undergoing a heavier-than-usual turnaround season, with many shutting down gasoline-making units for maintenance. The maintenance work comes after refiners shut or idled more than 1 million barrels a day of capacity in 2020 as the pandemic decimated fuel demand.
The supply shortfall is “more than the market can absorb,” says John Auers, executive vice president at Turner Mason. Demand this summer will approach 2019 levels, says Auers, and summer 2019 was “close to peak gasoline demand.”
The loss of supply is likely to cause more pain at the pump for drivers who are already paying the most for gasoline than any January since 2013. The surge in fuel costs threatens the U.S. economic rebound and poses political risks for President Joe Biden, who has pledged to reduce energy costs. In November, Biden set in motion an unprecedented plan to release crude from the strategic reserve in conjunction with other consuming nations to reduce prices. However, prices have remained stubbornly high with crude rising more than 13% this year.
Last month’s unplanned outages in Texas and Washington State are further exacerbating the capacity shortage. Refiners are optimizing gasoline output at the expense of diesel and jet fuel but inventories still aren’t as high as they normally are in January.
Money managers are also betting on rising gasoline prices. Bullish bets on the commodity rose to a one-year high the week ending Jan. 18, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Gasoline futures rose to $2.5308 a gallon at 12:53 p.m. in New York, the highest since 2014.
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