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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Hold Steady
by Tom Moeller  December 21, 2010

The recent firming of gasoline prices took a breather last week. Nevertheless, as the pump price for regular gasoline remained at $2.98 per gallon. It still was the firmest since October 2008. Prices have risen roughly fifty cents per gallon since the middle of last year and have surged from the December-2008 low of $1.61. Yesterday the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline of $2.42 was up another nine cents from last week's average. Typically, pump prices decline this time of year due to lessened seasonal demand. To account for this pattern Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors and the adjusted gasoline price reached a new high of $3.52 per gallon.

Crude oil prices were little changed last week at $88.25 per barrel of light sweet crude (WTI). Yesterday, the crude price rebounded to $88.81 per barrel. Here again, normal seasonal factors are looking for lower crude prices. Consequently, the seasonally adjusted cost of a barrel of crude oil rose to a new high of $103.07 per barrel as calculated by Haver Analytics.

Lastly, natural gas prices fell to an average of $4.23 per mmbtu versus $3.70 in November. Yesterday, prices moved lower to $4.09 and remained down from an early-January high of $6.50.

Demand for gasoline increased 0.6% last week versus last year. The demand for residual fuel oil fell a greatly lessened 0.8% but distillate demand rose 3.9% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products rose a greatly lessened 0.7% during the last twelve months.

The energy price data are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and can be found in Haver's WEEKLY database. The daily figures are in DAILY and the gasoline demand figures are in OILWKLY

Weekly Price 12/20/10 12/13/10 12/06/10 Y/Y% 2009 2008 2007
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon,Regular) 2.98 2.98 2.96 15.2 2.35 3.25 2.80
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI($ per bbl.) 88.25 88.50 86.36 23.0 61.39 100.16 72.25
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 4.23 4.45 4.20 -23.1 3.95 8.88 6.97
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