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Economy in Brief

Weekly Gasoline Prices Increase With Stronger Crude Oil Prices
by Tom Moeller October 20, 2009

The pump price for regular gasoline increased last week to $2.57 per gallon and the gain reversed most of the decline since early last month. Moreover, prices remain up from the December low of $1.61. In addition, prices recently moved even higher and the wholesale gasoline price broached the $2.00 level for the first time since early-August. This level is nearly the highest in one year. The figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY & DAILY databases.

The crude oil market certainly has firmed and light sweet crude prices (WTI) rose to $75.74 per barrel last week, up from the December low of $32.37. Yesterday, the spot market price for light sweet crude oil rose even further to $79.61 per barrel.

Behind the increase in energy prices is an increase in the demand for gasoline. Last week, it posted a 4.0% rise versus one year ago. The gain was the strongest since the fall of 2006. Demand for residual fuel oil also increased 12.6% y/y while distillate demand halved its recent decline to 11.3% y/y. Finally, oil remains plentiful as evidenced by a 13.0% y/y rise in inventories of crude oil & petroleum products. The gain in inventories of gasoline has eased sharply, however, to 7.9% versus last year. The figures on crude oil production and inventories are available in Haver's OILWKLY database.

Natural gas prices increased again last week, ahead of the winter heating season, to an average of $3.63 per mmbtu (-45.8% y/y) but they remained down by three-quarters from the high reached in early-July of last year of $13.19/mmbtu. Yesterday prices increased further to $4.00/mmbtu.

Weekly Prices 10/19/09 10/12/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 2.57 2.49 -11.7% 3.25 2.80 2.57
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 75.74 70.86 0.7% 100.16 72.25 66.12
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