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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Strengthen Even More
by Tom Moeller  April 19, 2011

No need to tell drivers that it's more expensive to hit the road. Last week, the pump price for regular gasoline rose another nickel to $3.84 per gallon, the highest level since August, 2008. The gain has been from the December low that year of $1.61. Typically, pump prices decline this time of year due to lessened seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. The adjusted gasoline price rose further last week to $3.75 per gallon. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose to $3.16 from an average $3.14 last week.

In contrast to these gains, crude oil prices slipped last week to $108.21 for a barrel of WTI, but remained near the highest since September, 2008. The price compares to the 2008 weekly low of $32.37. Yesterday prices fell further to $107.12 per barrel.

Higher prices certainly can affect demand. Gasoline demand fell 1.6% during the last four weeks versus last year. The demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, fell 10.5% but distillate demand rose 1.4% y/y. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products slipped 0.7% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

Finally, natural gas prices slipped w/w to $4.12 per mmbtu. Yesterday, prices rebounded to $4.21 but remained down from last year's early-January high of $6.50.

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.

What Are the Implications of Rising Commodity Prices for Inflation and Monetary Policy? from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here .

Weekly Price 4/18/12 4/11/11 4/4/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.84 3.79 3.68 34.4 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 108.21 109.75 105.54 27.9 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 4.12 4.16 4.29 0.8 4.40 3.95 8.88
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