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Economy in Brief

Weekly Gasoline Prices Climb Toward 12-Month High
by Tom Moeller October 27, 2009

Gasoline prices rose to nearly their highest level in one year. The pump price for regular gasoline increased last week to $2.67 per gallon which was roughly the highest level since October of last year. Moreover, prices remain up from the December low of $1.61. This week prices rose even further and the wholesale gasoline price moved to $2.07 from an average $2.05 last week. The figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY & DAILY databases.

Higher crude oil prices are behind the rise in gas prices and light sweet crude (WTI) rose to an average $80.35 per barrel last week, up from the December low of $32.37. Yesterday, the spot market price for light sweet crude oil leveled off and slipped to $78.68 per barrel.

Behind the increase in energy prices is an increase in the demand for gasoline. Last week, it posted a 3.4% rise versus one year ago. The gain was nearly the strongest since the fall of 2006. Demand for residual fuel oil also increased 22.8% y/y while distillate demand halved its recent decline to 11.5% y/y.

Finally, an earlier abundance of gasoline has eased somewhat. Gasoline inventories were up 5.3% y/y last week which was one-quarter of the gain last month. The gain in crude oil inventories also halved to 8.9% y/y and inventories of residual fuel oil are down 8.5% versus last year.

Natural gas prices also strengthened last week, ahead of the winter heating season, to an average of $4.70 per mmbtu (-30.2% y/y). Though they remained down by two-thirds from the high reached in early-July of last year of $13.19/mmbtu, they are more than double the low reached early last month. Yesterday prices increased further to $4.55/mmbtu.

What is Driving Energy Prices from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is available here.

Weekly Prices 10/26/09 10/19/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 2.67 2.57 0.7% 3.25 2.80 2.57
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 80.35 75.74 17.8% 100.16 72.25 66.12
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