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Economy in Brief

U.S. Gasoline Prices Firm Although Demand Falls Sharply
by Tom Moeller  February 7, 2012

The pump price for regular gasoline rose again, last week to $3.48 per gallon which is up roughly ten cents during the last two weeks. 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 another three cents w/w to $3.75. Yesterday, the wholesale price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.95 versus last week's average of $2.91.

Gasoline demand recently fell 7.3% on average versus last year. Demand for residual fuel oil declined 1.6% y/y and distillate demand was off 1.7%. Inventories of crude oil and petroleum products fell 2.8% year-to-year compared to a 10.0% rise during mid-2009.

The price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil declined last week to $97.81 but remained up sharply from $79.71, the average during the first week of October. Yesterday, the price fell further to $96.91. Prices peaked at $113.93 in late-April. Working the other way, Brent crude rose last week to $111.23 per barrel and was $115.47 yesterday. Prices peaked earlier at $126.21.

Natural gas prices dropped last week to $2.47 per mmbtu, which was down nearly one-half y/y. Yesterday prices were $2.48 and were lower versus the early-January, 2010 peak 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

Explaining the Decline in the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is available here.

Weekly Price 02/06/12 01/30/12 01/27/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Retail Regular Gasoline ($ per Gallon, Regular) 3.48 3.44 3.39 11.2 3.52 2.78 2.35
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI ($ per bbl.) 97.81 99.11 100.04 7.9 95.14 79.51 61.39
Natural Gas ($/mmbtu) 2.47 2.56 2.40 -45.5 3.99 4.40 3.95
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