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Economy in Brief

U.S. Petroleum Prices Move Higher
by Tom Moeller  October 18, 2011

Last week the pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline increased six cents to $3.48, the highest level since late-September. Nevertheless, prices remained down versus May when they averaged $3.91. 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 $3.52 per gallon. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded fell to $2.82, even with Monday last week.

Crude oil prices also moved higher. For all of last week Light Sweet Crude averaged $85.56 versus the low of $79.71, but yesterday prices were slightly higher at $86.38. They remained down from the late-April peak of $113.93. Brent crude remained relatively expensive versus WTI and yesterday sold for $112.09 per barrel. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

Gasoline demand slipped 0.7% on average during the last four weeks versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, jumped 16.9% y/y and distillate demand rose 5.6%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 4.9% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

Finally, natural gas prices continued lower last week to $3.49 per mmbtu. That's about even with the early-June high of $4.86 but prices remained lower than last year's early-January peak of $6.50. Yesterday, prices staged a rebound to $3.70, the highest level since late-September.

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 10/17/11 10/10/11 10/3/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.48 3.42 3.43 22.7 2.78 2.35 3.25
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 85.56 79.71 81.45 4.1 79.51 61.39 100.16
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 3.49 3.53 3.81 -0.3 4.40 3.95 8.88
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