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Economy in Brief

Petroleum Prices Move Higher
by Tom Moeller May 5, 2009

Regular gasoline prices last week moved higher to $2.08 per gallon, up 47 cents from the December low. Yesterday, prices moved higher still. The spot market price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline reached $1.52 on Monday, up from $1.38 averaged last week and it was the highest price since early November. The figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY & Daily databases.

The rise in gasoline prices has been driven, in part, by higher crude oil prices. Prices averaged $51.07 last week for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate. Though that still was down slightly from the late-March high of $53.09, prices remained up from the December low of $32.37 per barrel. Prices reached a high of $145.66 last July. Yesterday, prices strengthened even further to $54.47. The latest increases occurred despite a 4.9% rise in crude oil production versus last year. The figures on crude oil production and inventories are available in Haver's Weekly Oil Statistics database.

Higher gasoline prices and economic weakness have lowered miles-driven, though the rate of decline has eased. Gasoline demand last week fell 2.1% y/y versus the 4.8% rate of decline seen last October. 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 6.8% y/y led by a 41.5% drop in demand for residual fuel oil and a 13.5% drop in distillate demand. These numbers are available in Haver's OILWKLY database.

The price of natural gas continued to move lower to $3.29 per mmbtu (-69.4% y/y), down with the end of the winter heating season. At the lowest level since 2002, the latest average price was down by three-quarters from the high reached in early-July of $13.19/mmbtu.

The April 2009 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices from the Federal Reserve Board is available here.

Weekly Prices 05/04/09 04/27/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 2.08 2.05 -42.5% 3.25 2.80 2.57
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 51.07 47.83 -55.7% 100.16 72.25 66.12
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