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Economy in Brief

Gasoline Prices Hold Prior Weeks' Gains
by Tom Moeller April 7, 2009

Regular gasoline prices last week held firm at $2.04 per gallon, the highest level since last November. The latest was up 42 cents from the December low. Yesterday, the spot market price for regular gasoline also remained firm at $1.37 per gallon. That was roughly unchanged from the prior two weeks but up from under $1.00 at the end of last year. 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.

Crude oil prices backpedaled from their earlier high as estimates of crude oil production strengthened. The American Petroleum Institute indicated that production rose in the latest week by 7.8% y/y. That increase compares with a decline in crude oil production of 2.1% during all of last year. Inventories of crude oil also were strong, as estimated by DOE's Energy Information Association. Inventories rose 15.6% following the 9.0% increase in 2008. The inventory and production figures lowered the price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate to $50.32 from the recent high of $53.09. However, that remained up more than 50% from the December low of $32.37 per barrel. In futures trading the May contract price for crude oil fell back yesterday to a still firm $51.05 per barrel. Prices reached a high of $145.66 last July.

The figures on crude oil production and inventories are available in Haver's Weekly Oil Statistics database.

Gasoline demand last week fell 0.2% y/y versus the 4.8% rate of decline seen last October. (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 4.4% y/y. That negative comparison was led by a 9.1% decline in distillate demand. Demand for residual rose a modest 1.2%. These numbers are available in Haver's OILWKLY database.

The price of natural gas continued downward with the coming end to the winter heating season. Prices fell to $3.64 per mmbtu (-61.7% y/y) which was near the lowest level since 2002. The latest average price was down more than two-thirds from the high reached in early-July of $13.19/mmbtu.

The Panic of 2008 is the title of yesterday's speech by Fed Governor Kevin Warsh and it can be found here

Weekly Prices 04/06/09 03/30/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 2.04 2.05 -38.9% 3.25 2.80 2.57
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 50.32 53.09 -51.4% 100.16 72.25 66.12
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