If you're an oil bull, thank the French

Crude oil is higher today, and a big reason is a strike in France that's shut down the country's oil refineries.

By Charley Blaine Oct 18, 2010 2:27PM
It's not often that oil traders in New York or Houston might say nice things about the French. But for now, they can.

Oil prices are higher today, and a big reason is that strikes in France have curtailed much of the activity for oil refineries and truck transportation.

At 2 p.m. ET, crude oil was at $82.76 a barrel, up $1.51 from Friday. Crude had reached $83.10. Wholesale gasoline future were at $2.1428 a gallon, up 1.9% from Friday.

The retail price of gasoline nationally was $2.832 a gallon, down slightly from Sunday, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, but up 5.3% in October. The pump price nationally is up 7.3% this year.

Crude had fallen below early on Monday to below $81 a barrel before the seriousness of the French situation got traders' attention.

Also helping push oil lower was a rally in the U.S. dollar that later faded.

France began to tap emergency fuel reserves as strikes by refinery and port workers continued and a growing number of fuel stations began to run dry.

Exxon Mobil's (XOM) Fos-sur-Mer refinery in southern France was still operating at minimum output and was expected to do so until Thursday or Friday, Reuters said.  Exxon was up 1.2%

"The situation is critical," an Exxon Mobil spokeswoman said earlier. "Anyone looking for diesel in the Paris and Nantes (Western France) regions will have problems."

Motorists rushed to gasoline pumps to fill up, but many were already closed or out of at least one oil product, Reuters said.

Nationwide strikes over pension reforms have spread to the country's 12 oil refineries over the past seven days, adding to the impact of a three-week strike at France's largest oil port, Fos-Lavera.

The powerful CGT union, which represents most refinery and port workers, used the port strike as a lever for wider action against French President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform.



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