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In contrast to gasoline, U.S. retail diesel prices in early 2013 have hovered above levels from a year ago, reflecting growing global distillate demand that's prompted the nation’s refiners to step up production for export markets, the Energy Information Administration said.
Demand for U.S. diesel "remains healthy as a result of imbalances in Latin America, where diesel demand exceeds local production," the EIA said in its This Week in Petroleum report. International demand has helped keep U.S. refiner diesel crack spreads, a measure of refiner profit margins, above year-ago levels.
"With the strong demand abroad, U.S. refiners have exported their additional distillate production," the EIA said. U.S. diesel exports last year through October averaged about 1 million barrels a day, up 22% from the same period in 2011. Most exports originated at Gulf of Mexico refineries and were shipped to Latin America.
At the beginning of this week, retail diesel nationwide averaged $3.927 a gallon, up from $3.85 a year ago but down from a 2012 peak of $4.15, reached in mid-October. Diesel prices are expected to continue declining through 2013 based on an outlook for cheaper crude oil, the EIA said.