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Economy in Brief

U.S. Natural Gas Price Plumbs A New Low; Petroleum Prices Roughly Stable
by Tom Moeller  January 24, 2012

Natural gas prices are continuing their recent slide. Warm temperatures, firm production and abundant inventories have lowered prices to their lowest since February, 2002. Last week's price of $2.40 per mmbtu was down nearly one-half y/y and fell further yesterday to a new low of $2.32. Prices were down versus the early-January, 2010 peak of $6.50.

The pump price for regular gasoline was stable last week at $3.39 per gallon. Since their May peak, prices have fallen 57 cents. Retail prices usually decline 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 three cents w/w to $3.65. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.80 versus last week's average of $2.82.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude slipped last week at $100.04 but remained up sharply from $79.71 averaged during the first week of October. Yesterday, the price fell to $98.18. Prices peaked at $113.93 in late-April. Brent crude also was down last week to $109.89 per barrel and was $109.48 yesterday. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

Gasoline demand recently fell 6.1% on average versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil, used for heating, rose 9.5% y/y and distillate demand fell 4.4%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 2.7% year-to-year compared to 10.0% growth in the middle of 2009.

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 01/23/12 01/16/12 01/09/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.39 3.39 3.38 9.0 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 100.04 100.44 102.39 11.4 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.40 2.80 2.92 -47.7 3.99 4.40 3.95
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