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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Gasoline Prices Meander
by Tom Moeller February 2, 2010

After hitting the high last June the pump price for regular gasoline has been roughly unchanged. Last week, the price slipped to $2.66 and compares to $2.69 reached during June. Nevertheless, prices remained up 41% from last year. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline was near last week's level at $1.94 but down from the January high of $2.14. The figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY & DAILY databases.

Earlier strength in the price for a barrel of light sweet crude (WTI) oil eased somewhat. Last week's price of $74.03 for a barrel of light sweet crude (WTI) was down from the high of $82.59 reached three weeks earlier. Yesterday, the spot price of $74.43 was up slightly from last week. Nevertheless, prices have risen from $71.53 early this past December and are more than double the December 2008 low of $32.37. Demand for gasoline last week posted a 1.0% decline versus one year ago. That decline compared to a 3.9% increase at the beginning of October. Breaking away from earlier y/y strength, the demand for residual fuel oil fell 19.8% y/y. Distillate demand fell 9.8% y/y, a decline more moderate than the 21.6% y/y shortfall at the beginning of last July. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell in January by 6.1% from the July high and were up just 0.4% from one year ago.

As temperatures moderated, U.S. natural gas prices backed off to an average $5.46 per mmbtu (15.0% y/y) from the high of $6.50 early in January. Nevertheless they remained up from $3.35 in November, triple the September low but down by half from the high reached in early-July of 2008 of $13.19/mmbtu.

The energy price data can be found in Haver's WEEKLY database while the daily figures are in DAILY. The gasoline demand figures are in OILWKLYReal-time inflation Forecasting in a Changing World from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York can be found here 

Weekly Prices 02/01/10 01/25/10 01/18/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 2.66 2.71 2.74 40.6% 2.35 3.25 2.80
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 74.03 76.76 80.07 74.1% 61.39 100.16 72.25
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