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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Move To Their Lowest Since February
by Tom Moeller  September 27, 2011

Slacked demand and lower crude oil prices helped lower retail gasoline prices last week to their least since late-February. The pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline fell another nine cents to $3.51. Prices were down forty-five cents since the May peak. Retail prices usually start to ease this time of year with reduced seasonal demand. To account for this pattern, Haver Analytics calculates seasonal factors. As a result, the adjusted gasoline price fell to $3.46 per gallon. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded fell to $2.59 per gallon versus last week's average $2.68.

Global economic weakness is taking its toll on prices. Crude oil prices fell last week to $83.77 for a barrel of WTI. They remained down from the late-April peak of $113.93. Yesterday, prices again fell sharply to $80.24 per barrel. Brent crude remained relatively expensive versus WTI but yesterday sold for a greatly lessened $108.12 per barrel. Prices peaked at $126.21.

Higher prices continued to negatively affect demand for petroleum products. Gasoline demand fell 1.7% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, slipped 0.7% y/y and distillate demand ticked up 0.5%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 5.1% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

Finally, natural gas prices fell sharply w/w to $3.78 per mmbtu. That's versus the early-June high of $4.86 and prices remained down from last year's early-January peak of $6.50. Yesterday, prices ticked up to $3.81.

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 9/26/11 9/19/11 9/12/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.51 3.60 3.66 30.3 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 83.77 88.93 87.91 13.3 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 3.78 3.94 3.97 -6.1 4.40 3.95 8.88
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