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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Are Highest Since 2008
by Tom Moeller March 09, 2010

Gasoline prices continued their rally. At $2.75 per gallon last week, the pump price for regular gasoline was at the highest level since January which was the highest level since September 2008. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline increased to $2.18, also its highest since 2008. The figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY & DAILY databases.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude (WTI) rose last week to $80.19 though it remained down from the early-January high of $82.59. Nevertheless, prices have risen from $71.53 early this past December and are more than double the December 2008 low of $32.37. Yesterday, the spot price rose further to $81.87.ยท Demand for gasoline fell 2.5% last week versus one year ago. That decline compared to a 3.9% increase at the beginning of October. The demand for residual fuel oil spiked by one-third with falling temperatures in the Northeast & Midwest. However, distillate demand fell 7.7% 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 slipped in February but were up 1.0% from one year ago.

U.S. natural gas prices fell last week to an average $4.75 per mmbtu (+11.8% y/y) from the high of $6.50 early in January. Nevertheless, prices remained double the September low.

Outside of energy, commodity prices also have been strong. Copper has led the gain as prices have more-than doubled since early last year. Scrap steel prices remain strong with a doubling during the same period. Aluminum prices have leveled off since December but remain up by two-thirds since the 2009 low. With improved housing activity has come strength in lumber prices which have risen more than 50% since early-2009. Cotton prices also have nearly doubled with improvement in consumer spending. In the agricultural area, prices of foodstuffs including wheat, corn & butter, as well as livestock have risen by one-half. Finally, gold prices near $1,126.50/pound have risen 50% since the fall of '08 and have roughly tripled since 2001.

The energy & commodity price data can be found in Haver's WEEKLY database while the daily figures are in DAILY. The gasoline demand figures are in OILWKLY

Weekly Prices 03/01/10 03/01/10 02/22/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 2.75 2.70 2.66 41.7% 2.35 3.25 2.80
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 80.19 79.26 78.30 85.4% 61.39 100.16 72.25
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