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Nat Gas, Gasoline Prices Diverge As Storm Bears Down Toward Gulf

Gasoline futures surged to a five-month high, spiking 2.5 percent to settle at $3.15 a gallon Monday, as Tropical Storm Isaac continues its path toward the U.S. Gulf Coast. (Read More: As Storm Threatening Gulf, Why Are Oil Prices Falling?)

Tropical Storm Isaac moves toward the Florida coast on August 27, 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean. According to reports, Isaac, still rated as a tropical storm, is expected to strengthen into at least a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall August 29.
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Tropical Storm Isaac moves toward the Florida coast on August 27, 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean. According to reports, Isaac, still rated as a tropical storm, is expected to strengthen into at least a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall August 29.

On the other hand, oil fell slightly and natural gas prices sank as traders weighed the potential impact of the storm on the energy sector.

Traders seemed to perceive there could be a far greater price impact on gasoline from refinery shut-ins in the U.S. Gulf than loss of offshore oil and natural gas production.



About 78 percent of oil production in the Gulf has already been shut-in, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. (Read more:Oil Falls Nearly 1% as Isaac Shuts Gulf Refineries)

Refinery shut-ins now account for approximately 1.1 million barrels a day of processing capacity. Oil prices closed down fractionally to settle at $95.47 a barrel, as speculation supply disruptions could cause a release from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve pressured the market.

Meanwhile, natural gas futures declined nearly 2 percent to settle at $2.65 per million BTUs on Monday. (Read More: Top Refinery Plays Amid Hurricane Isaac - Analyst.)

About 48 percent of daily of natural gas production has already been shut in the U.S. Gulf as a precautionary measure, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Nearly 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas output has been shut-in and that number is expected to increase.

"Natural gas onshore volumes have been increasing and there is a glut of gas in storage, which should make the positive impact on natural gas the smallest of the three products," said energy analyst Amir Arif Shields of Stifel Nicholaus.

Meanwhile, "cooling rains and possible power outages are demand side offsets to what might be 3 bcf per day of offshore production losses," said Citifutures energy analyst Tim Evans. (Read More:Isaac Heads for Gulf Coast, Hurricane Warning Issued)

- By CNBC's Sharon Epperson
@sharon_epperson

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