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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Are Stable; Crude Oil Prices Rise
by Tom Moeller March 10, 2009

Regular gasoline prices were roughly stable last week, up one penny to $1.94 per gallon. That left the price still near the middle of the $1.89 to $1.96 range in place since early February but the latest was up 33 cents from the December low. Yesterday, the spot market price for regular gasoline was also about stable at $1.23. The figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Weekly gasoline prices can be found in Haver's WEEKLY database. Daily prices are in the DAILY database.

Gasoline demand continued downward last week, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The y/y change of -0.4%, however, has moderated from the rate of decline seen last October when demand was falling 4.8% y/y. (Gasoline prices at the time were just off their peak.) The change in demand is measured using the latest four weeks versus the same four weeks in 2008. Demand for all petroleum products was down 1.3% year-to-year after the -8.0% comparison last October. These numbers are available in Haver's OILWKLY database.

The price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose last week to $43.26 per barrel. That pulled prices to the high end of their recent range between $37.00 and $44.50 per barrel. Prices reached a high of $145.66 last July. In futures trading yesterday, the one-month price for crude oil rose even further to $47.07 per barrel. Last week's average was $43.26 and the February low was $36.91.

Also reported by the U.S. Energy Information Agency was that inventories of crude oil & petroleum products rose 6.2% year-to-year after a 7.5% decumulation rate this past September. Distillate fuel oil inventories have risen by 21.8% year-to-year while gasoline inventories are off 8.0%. These demand & inventory figures also are available in Haver's OILWKLY database.

The price of natural gas ticked up last week to $4.24 per mmbtu (-55.2% y/y), near the lowest level since September 2006. The latest average price was down more than two-thirds from the high reached in early-July of $13.19/mmbtu.

Weekly Prices 03/09/09 03/02/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 1.94 1.93 -39.8% 3.25 2.80 2.57
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 43.26 41.81 -58.2% 100.16 72.25 66.12
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