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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Remain Weak Although Crude Oil Backs Up Sharply
by Tom Moeller  October 12, 2011

Last week the pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline slipped one penny to $3.42. That slip followed sharp declines since late-May that have amounted to fifty-four cents. 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 rose slightly to $3.43 per gallon. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded rose to $2.88, its highest level in two weeks.

Crude oil prices backed up yesterday to $85.81 versus a low of $75.67 touched last week. For last week as a whole, crude prices averaged $79.71 per barrel versus the prior week's $81.45 for a barrel of WTI. They remained down from the late-April peak of $113.93. Brent crude remained relatively expensive versus WTI and yesterday sold for $110.27 per barrel versus last week's low of $100.74. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

Gasoline demand fell 1.7% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, jumped 27.9% y/y but distillate demand rose just 2.0%. 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 continued lower to $3.53 per mmbtu. That's down sharply from the early-June high of $4.86 and prices remained lower than last year's early-January peak of $6.50. Yesterday, prices held at $3.53.

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 10/10/11 10/3/11 9/26/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.42 3.43 3.51 21.2 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 79.71 81.45 83.77 -3.2 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 3.53 3.81 3.78 1.0 4.40 3.95 8.88
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