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Refinery stocks rise after Harvey hits Houston; Dow closes lower

  • Harvey, a hurricane that was later downgraded to a tropical storm, ravaged Houston and other parts of Texas over the weekend.
  • Gasoline prices spiked, lifting shares of oil refinery companies.

Shares of oil refinery companies rose on Monday after Tropical Storm Harvey forced refineries in Houston to shut down.

Harvey, a hurricane that was later downgraded to a tropical storm, ravaged Houston and other parts of Texas over the weekend, with more than 30 inches of rain falling in some parts in just 48 hours. Houston is home to several major refineries in the U.S.

"With some of the major refineries closing down in Houston, we're seeing fireworks in gasoline prices, a move which is being reflected in refinery stocks," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.

RBOB gasoline futures for September delivery jumped as much as 6.8 percent on Monday before settling at $1.7123 per gallon. U.S. crude futures for October delivery, meanwhile, fell 2.7 percent to settle at $46.57 per barrel.

Shares of Valero Energy, Phillips 66 and Marathon Petroleum all closed higher.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"We're looking at a mini-gasoline spike at the prospect of millions of barrels a day of U.S. refining capacity lost for at least a period of days," Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday.

There are "some real questions about what happens when you have an unprecedented forecast of 30-to-60 inches of rain in an area like Houston where many of the refineries sit along the ship channel at very modest numbers above sea level," Kloza said.

The broader stock market, meanwhile, traded mixed as investors get set to wrap up August.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.27 points to close at 21,808.40, with insurance giant Travelers contributing the most to the losses. The 30-stock index traded higher earlier in the session.

The S&P 500 oscillated between gains and losses before closing down at 2,444.24, with health care leading six sectors higher. The Nasdaq composite outperformed, rising 0.3 percent to close at 6,283.02.

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Entering Monday's session, the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq were all down for the month as investors grappled with lingering worries about the Trump administration's ability to move forward with tax reform.

President Donald Trump has seen top members of the Republican party distance themselves from him in the aftermath of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"As we approach September, I think investors are going to be very cautious," said Cardillo of First Standard Financial. "I think the greatest threat to the market right now is the political situation."

But John Stoltzfus, chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer Asset Management, said in in a note Monday that "recent history suggests the political bark may be worse than the political bite."

Stoltzfus also noted that stimulative economic policies, such as tax reform, " will have a good chance to find political support from both sides of the aisle" as the 2018 mid-term elections draw closer.

"Results at the polls since election day 2016 and so far this year have in our view signaled a strong desire among voters for action over gridlock and an end to the legislative stagnation in the halls of Congress," he said.

—CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report.