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Economy in Brief

U.S. Petroleum Prices Maintain Their Higher Level
by Tom Moeller April 27, 2010

April has been a firm month for energy prices and a gallon of regular gasoline averaged its highest price since October 2008. Last week, it remained near the prior week's high of $2.85 which was up by 77% since the December, 2008 low. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline held onto its level late last week. The figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY & DAILY databases.

Crude oil costs slipped last week but an upward trend has been behind the rise in gasoline prices. The price for a barrel of light sweet crude (WTI) again fell slightly last week to $83.04 but for the month averaged $84.22 versus $81.01 during March. Prices remain up by two-and-one half times the 2008 low.

A firming of demand has helped energy prices move higher. Weekly gasoline usage was up 1.1% last week versus one year ago and that compares with a 3.0% decline in early-February. The demand for residual fuel oil jumped 10.5% but distillate demand fell 4.1% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products rose slightly last month but were down slightly from one year ago. That contrasts with a strong inventory accumulation into September of last year.

U.S. natural gas prices were steady last week at $4.00 per mmbtu (+15.8% y/y). Prices reached a high of $6.50 early in January. Nevertheless, prices remained nearly double the September low.

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 OILWKLY.

Weekly Prices 04/26/10 04/19/10 04/12/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 2.85 2.86 2.86 39.0% 2.35 3.25 2.80
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 83.04 84.60 85.97 73.6% 61.39 100.16 72.25
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