China to Raise Domestic Fuel Prices

For the first time in 10 months, China has raised its domestic fuel prices in an effort to stimulate production by refineries such as China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (NYSE:SNP) and PetroChina Co, (NYSE:PTR) Bloomberg reported.

According to information on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website, retail gasoline and diesel prices were set to go up 300 yuan ($47.58) per metric ton starting today, Bloomberg said. The increase breaks down to a nationwide average of 0.22 yuan per liter gasoline and 0.26 yuan per liter for diesel.

With the international cost of crude rising, China Petroleum, known as Sinopec, and PetroChina, the country’s biggest refiners, have pushed the government to raise fuel prices. The government adjusts fuel prices to control inflation, which reached a 15-month low of 4.1 percent in December.

“Sinopec benefits the most as it is more leveraged to refining, and our estimates show it may be nearly breaking even with gross refining margins at around minus $1 a barrel,” wrote Sophie Tan and Brynjar Eirik Bustnes, analysts at JPMorgan Securities Asia Pacific Ltd. They said PetroChina’s margins are minus $3 to $4 a barrel.

In Hong Kong trading today Sinopec gained 1.8 percent to HK$9.45, while PetroChina rose 2.2 percent to HK$11.86. The benchmark Hang Seng index was up 1.5 percent.

In a December report, Gordon Kwan, head of energy research at Hong Kong’s Mirae Asset Securities Ltd. said China may increase gasoline and diesel prices by 15 percent to about $4.10 a gallon this year in a series of five separate price hikes.

Here’s how these stocks reacted to the news:

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (NYSE:SNP): SNP shares recently traded at $120.39, down $2.31, or 1.88%. They have traded in a 52-week range of $82.50 to $125.36. Volume today was 153,818 shares versus a 3-month average volume of 169,287 shares. The company’s trailing P/E is 8.92, while trailing earnings are $13.50 per share.

PetroChina Co. Ltd. (NYSE:PTR): PTR shares recently traded at $151.72, down $1.51, or 0.99%. They have traded in a 52-week range of $111.29 to $158.83. Volume today was 146,761 shares versus a 3-month average volume of 218,348 shares. The company’s trailing P/E is 12.44, while trailing earnings are $12.20 per share.