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Economy in Brief

Weaker U.S. Demand Leads Energy Prices Lower
by Tom Moeller  August 9, 2011

Weakened demand helped the pump price for regular gasoline fall four cents last week to $3.67 per gallon. Prices remained down twenty-nine cents since the May peak. Pump prices usually rise this time of year with increased seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. As a result, the adjusted gasoline price fell to $3.44 per gallon. Yesterday, the spot market price for a gallon of regular gasoline dropped to $2.66 versus last week's average $2.87.

Gasoline demand fell 3.6% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, fell 11.3% y/y but distillate demand ticked up 1.7%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 2.4% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

Globally, a weaker economic growth environment has hurt crude oil costs. Crude oil prices dropped last week to $90.82 for a barrel of WTI. They remained down from the late-April peak of $113.93. Yesterday, crude prices plunged further to $81.31. Brent crude remained relatively expensive and yesterday sold for $103.16. Prices peaked at $126.21.

Finally, natural gas prices fell w/w to $4.20 per mmbtu. Yesterday, prices fell further to $4.03 and 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 8/8/11 8/1/11 7/25/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.67 3.71 3.70 32.0 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 90.82 97.73 97.94 11.0 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 4.20 4.41 4.55 -12.4 4.40 3.95 8.88
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