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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Increase Steadily
by Tom Moeller  May 3, 2011

There's been no let-up of the upward pressure on energy prices. Last week, the pump price for regular gasoline rose to $3.96 per gallon, the highest level since July, 2008. 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 to $3.82 per gallon. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline held steady with last week at $3.26.

Crude oil prices also rose last week to an average $112.93 for a barrel of WTI, and remained near the highest since September, 2008. The price compares to the 2008 weekly low of $32.37. Yesterday prices increased further to $113.52 per barrel.

Higher prices continued to affect demand for petroleum products. Gasoline demand fell 1.6% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Conversely, the demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, rose 6.1% y/y and distillate demand rose 7.3%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 2.2% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

Finally, natural gas prices strengthened w/w to $4.40 per mmbtu. Yesterday, prices rose further to $4.61 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.

Weekly Price 5/2/11 4/25/11 4/18/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.96 3.88 3.84 36.7 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 112.93 109.61 108.21 34.1 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 4.40 4.27 4.12 6.5 4.40 3.95 8.88
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