Gasoline sank to the lowest level since January on concern that U.S. and European economies are weakening, reducing fuel demand at the same time refineries increase output.
Prices slid to the lowest intraday level since Jan. 18. March U.S. retail sales fell the most in nine months. Cyprus said it will seek more aid from the European Union. Gasoline supplies and refinery inputs rose last week, government data show. The motor fuel is the worst performer this month in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 materials.
“The problems in Europe seem to have bubbled up again and retail sales are not looking too good on top of the weak fundamentals,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
Gasoline for May delivery fell 5 cents, or 1.8%, to $2.781 a gallon at 9:57 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange on volume that was 15% above the 100-day average.
Prices were down 2.9% since April 5, heading for a second consecutive weekly loss. Futures have dropped 13% since reaching a 2013 high of $3.2035 on March 8.
“The market is hunting for a bottom here and I don’t think we’ve reached it yet,” McGillian said.
The May crack spread versus West Texas Intermediate crude widened 78 cents to $26.18 a barrel as WTI for May delivery slid 2.2%. The spread against Brent oil on ICE Futures Europe Exchange gained 78 cents to $15.41 as Brent for May delivery sank 1.9%.
Inventories along the East Coast rose for the first time in five weeks last week as imports jumped 64%, according to EIA data. East Coast refiners processed the most oil since November 2011.
Gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, fell 0.6 cent to $3.558 a gallon, AAA said today on its website. Prices have fallen 22.8 cents from the year-to-date high of $3.786 on Feb. 26 and are 34.9 cents below a year ago.
Ultra-low-sulfur diesel for May delivery declined 5.49 cents, or 1.9%, to $2.8442 a gallon on volume that was 86% above the 100-day average. Prices touched $2.8369, the lowest intraday level since July 31. Futures were headed for a weekly decline of 2.3%.