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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Dip Again But Crude Oil Ticks Up
by Tom Moeller  June 1, 2011

These are confusing times for energy prices -- gasoline is down with the weak economy and less driving, but crude oil and natural gas are up. Last week, the pump price for regular gasoline fell to $3.79 per gallon though it remained up roughly one-third y/y. Moreover, pump prices usually start rising this time of year in anticipation of increased seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. As a result, the adjusted gasoline price fell further to $3.50 per gallon, it's lowest since late-February. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose to $3.06 versus $2.94 last week, but it still was down from the late-April high of $3.30.

Conversely, crude oil prices last week improved to an average $99.79 for a barrel of WTI. Nevertheless, the price remained down from the recent high of $113.93. Yesterday, crude prices rose further to $102.70.

Higher prices continued to negatively affect demand for petroleum products. Gasoline demand fell 2.1% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Conversely, the demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, rose 3.1% y/y while distillate demand fell 3.9%. 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 rose w/w to $4.36 per mmbtu the highest level in three weeks. Yesterday, prices rose to $4.63, however, they 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 5/30/11 5/23/11 5/16/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.79 3.85 3.96 39.1 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 99.79 98.46 100.65 40.3 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 4.36 4.14 4.16 4.2 4.40 3.95 8.88
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