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Alon USA Up almost a Fifth as HollyFrontier Dropped in March

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Apr. 11 2015, Updated 8:05 a.m. ET

American refiners

To conclude our series covering the best and worst performers in the energy space in March, let’s look at the American refining sector. Refiners process crude oil into usable fuels like gasoline and heating oil.

Given that the refining sub-sector is a relatively small one in the listed energy landscape, we’ve kept the bar low for the companies we analyze here. Here too, we’ve analyzed companies with market capitalizations of at least a billion dollars and 30-day average daily volume of at least about a million shares.

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Alon USA stands out

The biggest refining gainer in March was Alon USA Energy (ALJ). It gained almost a fifth during the month. Interestingly, ~14% of this gain came on March 30 and 31. The stock, which closed on March 27 at ~$14.73, opened on March 31 at ~$16.74. The company released no major news during this period. The refiner has gained almost 30% year-to-date.

The distant second-biggest gainer in the refining space was PBF Energy (PBF). The refiner returned ~8.8% in March. It’s gained ~22% in the last six months and ~12% year-to-date.

Top losers

The largest losing American refiner in March was HollyFrontier Corporation (HFC). It gave up ~8.5% of its value in the month. That’s not really big, because refiners’ profits depend on the difference between refined product prices and crude oil prices, and not the absolute level of crude oil prices.

The other top loser in the refining space was Marathon Petroleum (MPC). It gave up 2.5% of its value in March. Again, this is an endorsement of the industry’s different business model. Indeed, the refiner has gained ~8.8% year-to-date and 16.6% over the last six months!

The top four refiners we discussed here account for about 5% of the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP).

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