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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Slip As Crude Oil Falls
by Tom Moeller  May 17, 2011

Last week, the pump price for regular gasoline slipped back to $3.96 per gallon but remained near the highest level since July, 2008. Typically, however, pump prices start rising this time of year in anticipation of increased seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. The adjusted gasoline price fell further to $3.69 per gallon, is lowest since early-April. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline fell to $2.89 versus $3.15 last week and down from the late-April high of $3.30.

Crude oil prices fell last week to an average $100.65 for a barrel of WTI. The price compares to the 2008 weekly low of $32.37. Prices fell further yesterday to $97.37 in anticipation of slackened demand.

Higher prices continued to negatively affect demand for petroleum products. Gasoline demand fell 2.4% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Conversely, the demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, rose 4.5% y/y and distillate demand rose as well by 9.6%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 2.1% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

Finally, natural gas prices fell w/w to $4.16 per mmbtu but yesterday recouped the decline and rose to $4.26. Prices 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

'Rational Inattention' Guides Overloaded Brains, Helps Economists Understand Market Behavior from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas can be found here.

Weekly Price 5/16/11 5/9/11 5/2/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.96 3.97 3.96 38.3 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 100.65 106.16 112.93 34.3 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 4.16 4.49 4.40 -0.9 4.40 3.95 8.88
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