October 26, 2017 / 2:08 PM / 25 days ago

Harvey drives U.S. refiner margins, helps beat profit estimates

(Reuters) - Higher prices for gasoline and diesel in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey drove up margins for two big U.S. refiners, and led them to post quarterly profits that flew past Wall Street estimates.

Trucks are loaded with gasoline at the Puma Energy petrochemical facility after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/Files

Marathon Petroleum Corp said refining and marketing gross margins rose to $14.14 per barrel from $10.67 last year, while Valero Energy Corp’s refining margins rose 25.5 percent. Its refineries ran at 92 percent capacity.

Industrywide margins to produce diesel fuel rose to a more than two-and-a-half year high of $26.95 a barrel, while gasoline margins hit a two-year high in early September, after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas.

The hurricane sapped demand for crude and created long lines for gasoline in parts of the U.S. Southeast and Midwest.

“We are encouraged by domestic and global economic growth, and we expect low oil prices and solid product demand to continue into 2018,” said Joe Gorder, Chief Executive Officer of San Antonio, Texas-based Valero.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, Marathon earned $1.77 per share, easily topping analysts’ expectations by 29 cents, while Valero’s profit of $1.91 per share beat estimates of $1.83, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of Marathon were down slightly at $56.28, while Valero’s shares fell to $76.38 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Ahmed Farhatha and John Benny in Bengaluru, writing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee; Editing by Bernard Orr

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