The effects of renewed output from US refineries after a series of fires were partially offset by a similar incident at Venezuela’s Paraguana refinery, one of the world’s largest. Gasoline stocks fell by 2.5 per cent to 321.1 million barrels in the week to 12 August. ‘The dynamics of the market are still very much being driven by US gasoline,’ says Paul Horsnell of Barclays Capital.

OPEC’s latest monthly report, released on 17 August, warned of potential supply problems further down the line. The producer group raised the spectre of a tight winter for the distillate supply/demand balance, due to a precipitous fall in OECD crude output. ‘The expected loss in the OECD in 2005 is the largest in history and is a major drag on the overall performance of non-OPEC,’ said the study, which also reported yet another rise in the average OPEC basket price for July to $53.13 a barrel.