* Gasoline, heating oil surge after Baytown, Texas refinery
* Middle East tensions, Turkey strikes at Syria lift oil
* Coming up: U.S. Sept. nonfarm payrolls 8:30 a.m. EDT
(Adds detail paragraphs 10-12, 15-16)
By Robert Gibbons
NEW YORK, Oct 4 Oil prices jumped 4 percent on
T hursday as inflamed Middle East tensions stoked supply fears
and U.S. gasoline futures rallied following a fire at the
largest operating refinery in the United States.
Brent crude posted the biggest percentage gain since late
June as news of the refinery fire at the diesel hydrotreater
unit at Exxon Mobil's Baytown, Texas, refinery sent RBOB
gasoline futures up more than 5 percent at times in afternoon
Further support for oil came from U.S. equities gains after
weekly jobless claims data suggested improvement in the labor
market ahead of the monthly nonfarm payrolls report to be
released on Fri day.
In the most serious cross-border escalation of the 18-month
uprising in Syria, Turkey stepped up retaliatory artillery
strikes on a Syrian border town after what it called "the last
straw" when a mortar hit Akcakale, killing a mother, her three
children and a female relative.
The market had been on edge about possible disruptions to
supplies from the oil-rich region due to the standoff between
the West and Tehran over Iran's nuclear program.
"You have the Middle East and the euro strong against the
weaker dollar because people think Europe may yet get a handle
on their debt crisis," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures
Group in Chicago.
"Gasoline and heating oil are stronger because of the
The euro hit a two-week high against the greenback, giving a
boost to dollar denominated commodities, after European Central
Bank President Mario Draghi affirmed his commitment to preserve
the region's monetary system and its currency.
Brent November crude rose $4.41 to settle at $112.58
a barrel, snapping three days of losses that had pushed prices
to just above $108 a barrel.
The settlement left Brent back above the 200-day moving
average of $112.11 and the 50-day moving average of $112.28,
technical levels closely watched by chart-watching traders and
U.S. November crude gained $3.57 to settle at $91.71
a barrel, back above the 100-day moving average of $89.95 and
ending a two-session string of losses.
The oil complex was led by U.S. RBOB gasoline, which
shot up 14.34 cents to settle at $2.9429 a gallon, moving back
above the 100-day moving average of $2.8780 and putting the
200-day moving average of $2.9696 in sight.
U.S. heating oil , the benchmark distillate
contract, pushed 12.20 cents higher to settle at $3.1884 a
Cash gasoline and diesel prices on the Gulf Coast also
surged on news of the Baytown refinery fire.
Total Brent trading volume was 7 percent above the 30-day
average, with U.S. crude turnover less than 1 percent under its
Heating oil futures volume was strong, exceeding the 30-day
average by 32 percent.
U.S. stocks on Wall Street and industrial commodities posted
gains, lifted by data showing that U.S. jobless claims rose but
less than expected.
Investors were also awaiting Friday's key U.S. September
nonfarm payrolls report for signs of improvement, which could in
turn lead to an increase in demand for petroleum and consumer
With U.S. product inventories tightening and the winter
heating season looming, traders keenly monitored developments at
Exxon's massive 560,500-barrel per day Baytown complex.
The company said Wednesday's fire had impacted production
but that the problems had been contained in one processing unit
which sources familiar with refinery operations said was a
Support also came from news that a smaller, 130,000-bpd
Saratov refinery in Russia also caught fire o n T hursday.
(Additional reporting by Matthew Robinson in New York, Alice
Baghdjian in London and Ramya Venugopal in Singapore; Editing by
Marguerita Choy, Alden Bentley and Jim Marshall)