Global oil prices fell and U.S. gasoline futures eased Monday as investors bet that the damage from Hurricane Harvey may not be as devastating to the Houston area's petrochemicals industry as first anticipated.
Brent crude futures for November delivery, the global benchmark, were marked 0.05% lower at $52.60 per barrel by 15:00 London time while West Texas Intermediate crude futures for October were little-changed at $47.27 per barrel.
September gasoline futures, however, slipped a further 3.5% as prices retraced to levels seen just prior to Hurricane Harvey's landfall in late August as Houston-area refining installations come back online and the U.S.'s biggest fuel system operator, the Colonial Pipeline Co., said it would reopen portions of its key distribution channels.
Retail gas prices, however, remain at near two-year highs with a national average of around $2.65 a gallon, according to the comparison website GasBuddy.com, up 1.8 cents from Sunday and 27.5 cents from last week.
The national average could hit $2.79 a gallon in the upcoming week, according to oil price analysts Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy and Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service. In Dallas, some drivers are paying as high as $3.97 per gallon.
The Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has said that around 5.5% of the region's refining capacity remains offline, although that figure is down from around 25% at the peak of Harvey's floods late last week.
However, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has pegged the cost of the storms and the resulting flood damage at between $150 billion to $180 billion, a figure that, if accurate, would make Harvey the most cost storm in U.S. history.
"When you look at the number of homes that have been mowed down and destroyed and damaged, this is going to be a huge catastrophe that people need to come to grips with," Abbott told CNN Sunday. "It's going to take years for us to be able to overcome this challenge."
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