Trading Nation

Why gas prices are rising despite oil's plunge

Gas gets pumped, oil tanks
Gas gets pumped, oil tanks

Despite the supply glut that has sent oil prices tumbling, prices at the pump are on the rise.

Crude oil fell about 1 percent on Monday, trading near six-year lows. However, the national gasoline price average has increased to $2.67 from $2.59 one week ago, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report.

Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates said the rise in gas prices is driven by California and the greater Chicago area, where major oil refineries are having trouble processing crude oil into gasoline for the consumer.

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BP recently its largest crude-oil processing unit in the Midwest after heavy damage from a malfunction. Lipow said California gas prices are still feeling the blows from an explosion in February at an Exxon Mobil refinery in the Los Angeles area.

"It's those two regions that have brought up the national average. We actually have more than adequate supplies as refiners are operating at historically high levels," Lipow said.

Meanwhile, the rest of the industry is unable to resupply the deficiency, because oil pipelines into the Midwest are already operating at maximum capacity, he said.

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However, Lipow said gas prices will continue their fall after a couple months, as oil companies attempt to get refineries running again and demand from the summer driving season starts to wind down.

"It's been my experience that eventually these problems are resolved and supply will return to the market," he said. "I expect that the national retail gas average price will decline by 35 to 40 cents per gallon by the end of the year."

Taking a technical tack, Katie Stockton of BTIG said gasoline has stayed above key support levels, while crude has continuously broken down to new lows. She said this could be a sign of an approaching relief rally for both gas and oil.

"I actually think gasoline might be telling us something, because it remains above those lows and [crude oil] is so incredibly oversold and showing downside of momentum exhaustion," Stockton said Friday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

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The disparity between crude oil and refined products like gasoline is good for companies that take the former and convert it into the latter. That's one reason why refiners Valero and Tesoro are each up nearly 40 percent this year.

Among the bigger oil names, one stock that could come out on top is Exxon Mobil, according to Erin Gibbs, equity chief investment officer of S&P Capital IQ. The energy company has seen its shares fall 15 percent this year, but has seen growth in its its "downstream" business, which includes refining and selling oil products.

"One of the companies that I looked at that gets 10 percent of its net profits from downstream or refined gas is Exxon Mobil, and I like this actually, because it's really oversold right now," Gibbs said Friday.


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