US oil products futures slump as weak Brent crude weighs

imageNEW YORK: US refined products futures fell on Tuesday as slumping Brent crude prices weighed on the oil complex and a surging dollar helped provide pressure, brokers and analysts said.

U.S. April RBOB gasoline futures were off 5.38 cents, or 2.87 percent, at $ 1.8209 a gallon at 12:49 p.m. EDT (1649 GMT), having slipped as low as $ 1.8168.

April NY ultra-low sulfur diesel futures were down 3.08 cents, or 1.67 percent, at $ 1.8090 a gallon after slipping to $ 1.8051 intraday.

“Brent crude oil is leading the wider petroleum complex lower on Tuesday as it explores the lowest price level in a month, with equity market weakness and U.S. dollar strength contributing to the downward pressure,” Tim Evans, Energy Futures Specialist at Citi Futures, said in a research note.

Brent April crude was down $ 1.92, or 3.28 percent at $ 56.61 a barrel, while U.S. April crude was down $ 1.38, or 2.76 percent at $ 48.62 a barrel.

“Brent’s April contract expires Monday, ahead of the U.S. contract, and that seems to be helping put pressure on Brent along with strong dollar and the fact that all the geopolitical concerns in Libya and the Middle East have not yet resulted in a big supply disruption,” said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

U.S. refined products futures are often reactive to Brent crude movements because Brent is the benchmark for foreign crude grades competing with domestic grades for placement in refineries in the United States.

Total U.S. liquid fuels consumption is forecast to grow by 310,000 barrels per day (bpd), or 1.6 percent, in 2015, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday in its monthly Short-term Energy Outlook.

That was up 20,000 bpd or 0.1 percentage point from February’s report.

While still looking for lower retail pump prices in 2015 to boost gasoline use by 70,000 bpd, the EIA’s growth forecast was down by 10,000 bpd from February’s report.

Average retail gasoline prices increased for six consecutive weeks to $ 2.49 a gallon as of March 9, the EIA said, after sliding to $ 2.04 on Jan. 26, the lowest since April 2006.

Distillate fuel consumption was seen growing 80,000 bpd in 2015, steady to the report in February. Growing petrochemical plant use of hydrocarbon gas liquids and residual fuel oil as feedstock was expected to to increase 160,000 bpd, reversing a decline in 2014.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

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