NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude oil futures rose for a second day in a row on Monday on persistent worries about supply disruption from Iran, higher equities and a weaker dollar.
Concern about supplies from Iran continued to roil the oil market due to EU and U.S. sanctions even though Tehran has agreed to a new round of talks with world powers on its disputed nuclear program.
April RBOB gasoline futures settled at their highest since May 2011 on news that Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) will halt operations at its 235,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Aruba because of low profit margins.
Valero had already cut processing rates at the plant and said it may continue to run the site as a terminal and storage operation.
More than 2.1 million bpd of refining capacity in the Atlantic Basin has been shut or are under threat of closure during the past three years due to poor economics. See FACTBOX IDnL1E8EJ224
Gasoline futures also gained ahead of weekly U.S. inventory reports, which are forecast to show in a preliminary Reuters poll that gasoline stocks fell 2.1 million barrels in the week to March 16. <EIA/S}
Heating oil futures dipped, despite the forecast calling for a drawdown of 1.1 million barrels.
The poll forecast that crude stocks rose 2.4 million barrels on expectations of higher imports and lower refinery utilization, which was projected to have dipped 0.5 percentage point.
The industry group American Petroleum Institute will release its report on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. EST and the Energy Information Administration will issue its data on Wednesday, at 10:30 a.m. EDT.
* On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude for April delivery, which expires on Tuesday, settled at $108.09 a barrel, up $1.03, or 0.96 percent.
* In London, ICE Brent crude for May delivery settled 10 cents lower, or 0.08 percent, at $125.71 a barrel.
* May Brent’s premium against NYMEX May crude narrowed to $17.15 at the close, from $18.23 on Friday.
* NYMEX April RBOB closed at $3.3678 a barrel, up 1.09 cents, or 0.32 percent, the highest for front-month gasoline since May 10, 2011, when prices ended at $3.3797.
* The U.S. Federal Reserve has not yet decided whether to embark on a third round of quantitative easing, or QE3, though it remains an option, said New York Fed President William Dudley, who painted a mixed picture of the U.S. economy.
* Bank of America Merrill Lynch raised 2012 price forecasts for Brent crude by $8 to $118 a barrel and for U.S. oil by $3 to $106 a barrel, citing better-than-expected global economic conditions and tighter-than-expected supplies.
* Three of the trains feeding the desulphurization unit at PBF Energy’s 182,000 bpd refinery in Delaware City were restarted after a fire hit the plant on Friday, but a fourth train was heavily damaged, an industry source said.
* BP Plc’s (BP.L) 405,000 bpd Whiting, Indiana, refinery was back to normal operations on Monday following a unit tripping out of production on Sunday, according to sources familiar with refinery operations. The malfunction on Sunday did not impact production at the refinery, the sources said.
* China will raise retail gasoline and diesel prices by between 6 and 7 percent from Tuesday, marking the biggest increase in 33 months, a move that will help refiners reduce heavy losses but is unlikely to hit demand in a big way.
* U.S. homebuilder sentiment was unchanged in March to hold at the highest level since June 2007 while sentiment in February was revised lower, the National Association of Home Builders said on Monday.
* The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index extended its rally to climb within 10 percent of its historic closing high, after Apple Inc (AAPL.O) said it would buy back $10 billion of its stock and pay $10 billion annual dividend. .N
* The euro climbed to its highest against the U.S. dollar in more than a week after an orderly auction of Greek default insurance supported views that Greece’s threat to the euro zone has diminished. <USD/>
* Copper rose in moderate trading as another large withdrawal in warehouse stockpiles and an improved U.S. economic outlook bolstered the West’s demand prospects at a time when China’s near-term needs remain unclear. <MET/L>
* Gold rose with some investors encouraged by signs that central banks have been buying the precious metal on dips, but its technical outlook indicates it could fall further. <GOL/>
* U.S. housing starts for February, 8:30 a.m. EST (1230 GMT)
CHNG CHNG VOL VOL CLc1 108.09 1.03 1.0% 106.55 108.24 86,365 192,992 CLc2 108.56 0.98 0.9% 107.04 108.70 236,930 150,002 LCOc1 125.71 -0.10 -0.1% 124.82 126.05 122,436 159,876 RBc1 3.3678 0.0109 0.3% 3.3460 3.3846 32,795 53,742 RBc2 3.3618 0.0083 0.3% 3.3415 3.3780 37,749 42,843 HOc1 3.2613 -0.0206 -0.6% 3.2488 3.2912 40,008 48,797 HOc2 3.2759 -0.0151 -0.5% 3.2633 3.2981 41,654 28,063
CURRENT Mar 16 30D AVG Mar 16 NET CHNG
CRUDE 545,368 550,209 706,247 1,574,114 -15,039
RBOB 133,313 139,514 140,236 387,253 -1,882
Reporting By Gene Ramos and Robert Gibbons; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer